2020 Census: FAQs

This guide is for the USC community and public to learn about the importance of the 2020 Census.

Commonly Asked Questions about the 2020 Census

Q. When does the 2020 Census start?

A. The enumeration starts in remote Alaska on January 21, 2020, but most households will receive their census materials by U.S. mail or hand-delivery starting in mid-March. The online and telephone response options will be available starting on March 12, 2020. 

Q. How will the online response option work?

A.  Almost all households will receive an invitation letter in the mail with instructions for responding to the census online. The invitation will include a unique identification code called a Census ID or User ID. Using the Census ID helps the Bureau keep track of responses and prevent duplication. However, the Census ID is not required in order to respond online or by telephone. If respondents don’t have their Census ID handy, they can use their address instead.

Q. Will the Census send emails for the 2020 Census?

A.   No, the U.S. Census Bureau will not send you an email for Census 2020. If you receive an email, DO NOT reply, click any links, or open any attachments. For more information, please read a Q&A With Census Bureau’s Chief Information Officer.

Q. Will the 2020 Census ask about your social security number

A. No, the Census Bureau never asks for:

  • your full Social Security number
  • money or donations
  • anything on behalf of a political party
  • your full bank or credit card account numbers
  • your mother’s maiden name

Q. How long will it take?

A.  The Census Bureau estimates that the questionnaire takes 10 minutes to complete on average.

Q. In what languages will the online form be available?

A. The online form will be available in English and 12 non-English languages: Arabic, Chinese [Simplified], French, Haitian Creole, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.

Q. Do college students need to fill out the 2020 Census?

A. Yes, college students need to fill out a Census form based on where they are living on April 1, 2020. Students should not rely on their parents to fill out the Census for them back home. International students should also fill out the Census, because it will determine funding for social services needed by all, such as the police and fire departments in the USC area. The only exception are college students living in dorms. The Census will work with USC housing to record the number of students living in USC dorms. 

Q. Will people experiencing homelessness be counted in the 2020 Census?

A. Yes, the process is called Service Based Enumeration. It will take place March 30 - April 1, 2020.  The U.S. Census Bureau counts people at places where they receive services (including shelters and soup kitchens) and at outdoor locations like encampments.

Q. Is my information secure?

A. Your personal information is kept confidential. The Census Bureau is bound by federal law to protect your information, and your data is used only for statistical purposes.  Responses are compiled with information from other homes to produce statistics, which never identify your home or any person in your home. Learn more about how the census protects your data and information. 

Q. Can census responses be shared with law enforcement or other government agencies?

A. No, Title 13 of the U.S. Code protects the confidentiality of personally identifiable information provided in census responses, including citizenship status. Federal law prohibits the Census Bureau from sharing personally identifiable information with other government agencies. Census staff take a lifetime oath to protect census responses, with severe penalties for violations. The law prohibits personally identifiable information collected by the Census Bureau from being used against respondents by any government agency or court.

Count the Nation

The USC Annenberg Innovation Lab and Wise Entertainment have assembled a powerful coalition of experts in media, communications, data, technology and journalism to ensure everyone knows how much census participation benefits their community.