Marcia Hultman

Cabinet Secretary

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South Dakota e-Labor Bulletin

June 2019

2020 Decennial Census: What's the big deal?

In a world where it seems everyone wants a minute or 15 of our time to take a survey, rate an app or evaluate a purchase, here comes one more: the 2020 decennial census. What’s the difference between the 2020 decennial census and other surveys we are asked to take? As important as all those other surveys or reviews are for each individual company requesting your feedback, it really doesn’t do a whole lot for the population as a whole. However, the 2020 census will have an impact on the lives of every American. The 2020 census data will be used to make many important decisions affecting the state, county and community you live in—ultimately impacting you and every other American.

Why Participate?

Participating in the decennial census is required by law. The U.S. Constitution gives Congress the authority to conduct a census every 10 years, completed by the U.S. Census Bureau. The goal of the decennial census is to count every resident of the United States and its territories according to where they live on Census Day, which is April 1, 2020. The census aims to count people at their usual residence, which is the place where they live and sleep most of the time. People who do not have a usual residence should be counted where they are living on Census Day. Special procedures are used for counting people who live in more complex situations such as homeless individuals, students living away from home, people in correctional facilities, service members and people living in shelters. All people living in the United States, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands are required by law to be counted in the 2020 census.

What to Expect

An invitation to complete the census will be sent to every household, meaning every address, by mail before April 1, 2020. Once the invitations are received, respondents can reply by mail, phone or online. The 2020 census marks the first time people will be able to respond online. The best course of action is to complete the survey as soon as it is received, because if it is not completed in a timely manner the Census Bureau will begin following up, in person, with non-responding households beginning in May 2020. All personal information given in the census is completely confidential; however, with the prevalence of fraud and identity theft scams, respondents are understandably nervous about giving out any personal information on surveys. With that being understood, the Census Bureau wants everyone to know what they will and will not be asking so respondents feel more comfortable. The Census Bureau will not ask for Social Security numbers, bank account or credit card numbers, money, donations or your mother’s maiden name. They will also not contact respondents on behalf of a political party. The Census Act required the Census Bureau to submit a list of questions to Congress; based on those questions the 2020 census will ask:

  • How many people are living or staying at your home on April 1, 2020. This will help count the country's population, and ensure people are counted only once, and in the right place according to where they live on Census Day.
  • Whether the home is owned or rented. This will help produce statistics about home ownership and renters. The rates of home ownership serve as one indicator of the nation's economy. They also help in administering housing programs and informing planning decisions.
  • About the sex of each person in the household. This allows statistics about males and females, which can be used in planning and funding government programs. These data can also be used to enforce laws, regulations and policies against discrimination.
  • About the age of each person in the household. Like recording the sex of each person, the U.S. Census Bureau creates statistics to better understand the size and characteristics of different age groups. Agencies use these data to plan and fund government programs that support specific age groups, including children and older populations.
  • About the race of each person in the household. This allows statistics about race and for tabulations of other statistics by racial group. These data help federal agencies monitor compliance with anti-discrimination provisions, such as under the Voting Rights Act and Civil Rights Act.
  • About whether a person in the household is of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin. These responses help create statistics about this ethnic group. This information is needed by federal agencies to monitor compliance with anti-discrimination provisions, such as those under the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act.
  • About the relationship of each person in the household to one central person. This allows the Census Bureau to create estimates about families, households and other groups. Relationship data are used in planning and funding government programs that support families, including people raising children alone and other households that qualify for additional assistance.

Safe and Secure Participation

If someone visits your home to collect census 2020 information, take the following steps to verify the person’s identity. First, check to make sure the individual has a valid photo ID badge, with a Department of Commerce watermark and an expiration date. Also, note the individual may be carrying a Census Bureau phone or laptop, plus a bag with a Census Bureau logo. If you still have questions, call 1.855.562.2020 and press option three to speak with a local Census Bureau representative to verify the person at your door is a legitimate Census Bureau employee.

Uses of Census Data

Getting a complete and accurate census count is critically important because the information is used for determining where billions of dollars in federal funding goes as well as drawing boundaries for congressional districts, state legislative districts and school districts. Responding to the census is also vital to helping your state and local community get its fair share of the more than $675 billion in federal funding for schools, hospitals, roads and public works. Census data not only helps determine where federal funds go, but local government and private business also use the data to make decisions. Local governments use the data for public safety and emergency preparedness; private businesses use census data to decide where to build factories, offices and stores, creating jobs.

Getting an accurate count of the United States’ population is one of the main reasons the decennial census is conducted. Not only is the point in time population used for making many important decisions, but the population counts are also used in the Population Estimates Program (PEP) to produce population estimates annually for the United States, states, counties, cities and towns as well as for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and its municipalities. The PEP program uses current data on births, deaths and migration to calculate population change and produces a time series of population estimates for each year between decennial censuses. Each year with the issuance of new estimates, the Census Bureau revises previous years estimates back to the most recent census. The latest vintage year of data available supersedes all the previously produced estimates for those dates. ‘Vintage year’ refers to the final year or most recent year of the time series.

The PEP data are used in federal finding allocations, as denominators for vital rates and per capita time series, as survey controls, and in monitoring recent demographic changes. The American Community Survey (ACS) also produces population, demographic and housing unit estimates; however, the PEP is considered the official source of population estimates.

Beginning in July 2019, all new data releases from the Census Bureau will be available on their new data platform. Upcoming data releases for the Census Bureau’s new data platform include the 2018 American Community Survey, 2017 Economic Census and the 2020 Decennial Census. Older data sets will still be available on the American Fact Finder until summer 2020 (tentative) when all historical data has been moved to

Helping with the Effort

If your business or agency would like to partner with the Census Bureau to help increase participation and awareness, please visit the Census Bureau’s website. Partners can help spread the message about the importance of participation in their communities by helping create awareness about the survey and the data it produces. Everyone is busy, and no one wants to fill out another survey, product review or rate another app, but when the 2020 census form shows up in your mailbox next March, take some time to fill it out right away. The information obtained is vital to your local community, state and nation—and ultimately to you. Completing the survey in a timely manner will not only save the local census workers some time, but yourself a headache. If you choose not to fill it out, a field representative (trained to be persistent) will show up to get the information in person.