A 2020 Census worker with an official satchel approached a residence.

9 things you need to know about the 2020 census

Every 10 years, the census is conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, in an effort to count everyone living in the country. The practice began in 1790 and is constitutionally mandated to occur each decade. The 2020 census follows in that tradition—and here’s what you need to know to make sure you are counted.

Because of COVID-19, the University of Utah has moved to a mostly online class model for the rest of the spring semester. The U.S. Census Bureau recommends that students who moved away from campus but who spent the majority of the school year living on campus still use their Utah address when responding.

We sat down with resident expert Mallory Bateman, senior research analyst and State Data Center coordinator at the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, who told us everything else we need to know about the 2020 census.

What is the 2020 census?

Light blue background with smiling African American woman in the center and text above her head reads The census matters to me because "My community benefits the most when the census counts everyone" Jojo

PHOTO CREDIT: University of Utah

University of Utah and Salt Lake City co-branded marketing materials, click to enlarge.

It is a complete count of every person in the United States, citizen or not, tied to their address. March 12 marked the beginning of the collection of data, which culminates in mid-August. Reports are given to the U.S. president by Dec. 31, 2020.

Why does the census matter?

The census determines power, funds and planning. The number of political representatives Utah has in Washington, D.C., is determined by the census, as well as local redistricting from the Utah Senate to city council seats.

“The population counts from the census also inform the allocation of funding from federal and state programs, including Federal Direct Student Loans and Pell Grants,” said Bateman.

I lived on campus during the 2019-20 academic year but moved out due to COVID-19, at what address should I be counted? 

Students should respond and be counted at the University of Utah campus address they lived at during the 2019-20 academic year. This would be the address where you spent the most time while attending in-person classes.

“We encourage those students who have departed campus to count themselves on campus where they would have been, if COVID-19 had not caused these unprecedented changes.” Bateman said.

Light blue background with smiling Latina woman in the center and text above her head reads The census matters to me because "The undocumented/dacamented community deserve to be counted" Naomi

PHOTO CREDIT: University of Utah

University of Utah and Salt Lake City co-branded marketing materials, click to enlarge.

Will completing the 2020 census affect my DACA status?

No, it will not. Your response to the census is confidential and protected by Title 13 of the U.S. Code.

“The U.S. Census Bureau cannot share your personally identifiable information with any other government agency or outside entity for 72 years,” Bateman said. “In fact, we are encouraging non-documented individuals and families to fill out the census. Those underserved communities will continue to be underrepresented if they don’t ‘speak up.’”

I’m an International student, should I complete the 2020 Census?

Yes. If you are in Utah on April 1 and have lived on or near campus for the year/semester, you “live here” for the purposes of the survey, and must complete the census.

How long does it take?

If you know your name, birthday, age, gender, origin and race, then not long at all. The census is designed to be quick and simple, and there are less than 20 questions in the whole thing.

Are you curious about how many people in your community are responding to the 2020 Census? Stay up to date with this interactive map of self-response rates from across the United States.

What if I have roommates?

The census is a count of the population by household and/or apartment.

“If you have roommates, use the census as an excuse to get everyone together and submit your responses all at once,” Bateman said. “If you have more roommates than your lease allows, be sure to include them as well. Your responses will not be shared with your landlord or law enforcement agencies.”

How do I fill it out?

Most households/apartments should have received an invitation to complete the census in the mail in March 2020. The invitation will include an ID number that is unique to your household, which you—or one person in your household—can use to answer by phone or, for the first time in census history, online. While having the ID number makes your response more streamlined, you do not have to have it to respond. Multiple options are available in the online form if you do not have your ID number.

“If you don’t respond by mid-April, you might get a paper copy of the questionnaire,” Bateman said. “If the U.S. Census Bureau has not heard from you by May, you will likely get a visit from a Census Enumerator who is tasked with gathering the remaining responses.”

What if English is not my first language?

The online form and the phone hotline are available in 13 languages, and language assistance in 59 languages can help you walk through the response form.

The important thing to remember about the census is that it is a data-driven effort to help provide what is needed for every region of the country. Your participation helps your community. Your response is confidential, and the only consequence for participating in the U.S. census is making your presence count.

To download all six versions of the University of Utah’s marketing materials, click here.