Census Frequently Asked Questions

IMG_2773_0.jpegWhat Is The Census?

The Decennial Census (Census) is a 10-question survey utilized to conduct a population and housing count of all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Island Areas as of April 1st (Census Day) of each census year.  Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution mandates an enumeration of everyone residing in the U.S. every 10 years.  The first Census was conducted in 1790 and has been carried out every 10 years since. 

What Questions Will Be Asked On The Census?

Ten questions will be included on the 2020 Census.The questions will ask about age, sex, Hispanic origin, race, relationship, and homeownership status. There will be no citizenship question listed on the form.

Why is the Census Important?

Every year, the federal government distributes more than $675 billion to state, local and tribal governments based on census data. A complete and accurate census count is essential for Santa Ana and the well-being of our community.

The census affects:

  • Your voice in government. The census is used to reapportion the House of Representatives, determining how many seats each state gets
  • The amount of funding California, Orange County and the City of Santa Ana receives
  • How the City of Santa Ana plans for the future

Will my information be kept confidential? 

  • Yes. Under the law, Census data can only be used for statistical purposes. Title 13 of the U.S. Code requires respondent’s information to be kept confidential, and guarantees personal information will not be used against respondents in court or by a government agency.
  • Census Bureau staff who have access to personal information are sworn for life to protect confidentiality, and are subject to a $250,000 fine and/or up to five years in federal prison for wrongful disclosure of information.

Why Does It Matter?

The decennial census is important because the results are used to determine the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives (a process called apportionment) and to define representative boundaries for congressional, state and local legislative districts (a process called redistricting). Additionally, decennial census data are used to distribute of over $675 billion in federal funds to states and local governments for vital community services, including but not limited to public safety, housing and community development, workforce development, health and human services, education, transportation and environmental protection. The State of California receives approximately $77 billion in federal funding. The City of Santa Ana receives over $50 million in federal funding. It is estimated that California and local communities could lose $1,950 per year for 10 years for each person not counted in the decennial census. A complete and accurate 2020 Census count is, therefore, critical for ensuring that California gets a fair share of Congressional representation and federal resources.

Decennial Census data also determine address lists for the American Community Survey (ACS) and other Census Bureau surveys that, in turn, produce trend data on the economy, housing, crime, poverty, unemployment, health, education and other demographic and socioeconomic characteristics important to understanding community needs, market conditions and the relative quality of life of states and local communities in the U.S. State and local governments, education, academic, public health and philanthropic institutions and businesses rely on Census data for planning and decision-making concerning the provision of services and/or making investments in local communities. It is also helpful for many other organizations to know the population, housing and socioeconomic characteristics of neighborhoods, cities and states. Community-based organizations use Census data to understand how communities are being served and when necessary, to support applications for grant funding to address community needs.

Who Is Counted?

The Census counts everyone who is living in the U.S. as of April 1st, including people of all ages, races, ethnic groups, citizens and noncitizens.

Where Are People Counted?

The U.S. Census Bureau counts people residing in single- and multi-family dwelling units, group quarters and transitory locations as of April 1st of the Census year.  Group quarters are group-living arrangements owned and managed by an organization providing housing and services for residents.  Examples include correctional facilities, hospitals, nursing and group homes, college dormitories, fraternity and sorority houses, military barracks, workers’ and religious group living quarters.  As part of the broader group quarters operation, the Census Bureau conducts what is called Service-Based Enumeration to count people residing in homeless shelters and at targeted outdoor locations.  Transitory locations are units where people who do not have a usual home elsewhere reside, such as marinas, recreational vehicle parks, hotels, motels and campgrounds. People away from their usual residence on Census Day are counted where they live or sleep most of the time. 

Is Participation In The Census Required?

Although the Census Bureau strongly encourages voluntary participation in the Census, completion of the Census survey is in fact required by law under Title 13 of the U.S. Code. 

IMG_3440_0.JPGWhat Are Hard-To-Count Areas And Populations?

Hard-To-Count (HTC) or Hard-To-Survey (HTS) are phrases used interchangeably to describe geographic areas and demographic populations that have been historically undercounted or traditionally have not responded well to the decennial census questionnaire.  HTC or HTS areas as census tracts or block groups with low self-response rates (mail-return rates) in prior censuses.  The Census Bureau currently defines a hard-to-count census tract or block group as one where more than 27 percent of households are not likely to respond to the decennial census questionnaire based on mail-return rates in 2010.  Using these prior census response rates, the Census Bureau assigns a Low Response Score (LRS) to census tracts and block groups.  As a baseline, a hard-to-count area would have a LRS of at least 27.09, meaning that this proportion residents within a census tract or block group did not self-respond to the census survey. View the California LRS Map of hard-to-count areas.  Below are some examples of demographic and socioeconomic characteristics commonly found in hard-to-count areas:

  • Hispanics/Latinos, Blacks/African-Americans, Asian-Americans & Pacific Islanders (API), Native Americans and Tribal Communities;
  • People older than 25 with less than a high school education;
  • People age 16 or older unemployed;
  • Households below the poverty level;
  • Low-income households;
  • Homeless families/persons;
  • Households without broadband subscriptions or limited to no access.
  • Children age 0-4; 
  • Foreign born residents;
  • People with limited English proficiency;
  • Veteran, Senior and Disabled residents;
  • LGBTQ+ residents;
  • College students age 18-24;
  • Temporary residents;
  • Overcrowded households; 
  • Non-family households;
  • Single-parent households;
  • Vacant housing units;
  • Renter-occupied housing units; and,
  • Multifamily housing with more than 3 units.

How Is The Census Taken?

The primary response option for the 2020 Census will be an online questionnaire, accessible from desktop and laptop computers, tablets and smart phones. Respondents will also be able to take the census by telephone.  Approximately 95 percent of households will receive correspondence via U.S. mail starting March 12, 2020, providing instructions and inviting them to complete the census.  Respondents will receive up to two reminder notices in March 2020 and a mailed questionnaire on the fourth contact attempt in April 2020 if necessary.  After the fourth contact attempt, non-respondents will receive one additional post card reminder.  In May 2020, the Census Bureau enumerators will begin conducting follow-up visits to nonresponding addresses/locations contained in the Census Master Address File to collect information at the door. 

What Happens After The Information Is Collected?

The Census Bureau delivers the apportionment counts for the U.S. House of Representatives to the President by December 31, 2020.  Additionally, the Census Bureau will deliver redistricting counts to the states in March of 2021 and not later than April 1, 2021. 

Can The U.S. Census Bureau Share Your Data?

No. Information given on the Census form is confidential. By law (Title 13 of the U.S. code), Census information is not shared with any other government agency and can only be used to produce statistical data. Census workers take an oath to protect the privacy of respondents’ information. Unlawful disclosure will result in a fine of up to $250,000 or imprisonment of up to five years, or both. Learn More

Is The Census Only In English?

No. The online Census questionnaire will be available in 12 non-English languages: Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese and Japanese. The Census Bureau will provide language assistance via phone in the above 12 non-English languages and in American Sign Language. Language guides and videos in 59 non-English languages (including the 12 priority non-English languages) and American Sign Language. The Census Bureau will also produce a language glossary reflecting all the non-English languages and equip Census enumerators with a card to identify the language of households visited. Learn More

What Is The 2020 Census Timeline?

  • Hiring of Census Enumerators Begins: September 2019
  • Census Begins: March 2020
  • Census Day: April 1, 2020
  • Non-response Follow-up: May-July 2020
  • Apportionment Counts: Sent to the President by Dec. 31, 2020
  • Redistricting Counts: Sent to the states by April 1, 2021

Additional Resources: