Census 2020 Overview 

What is the Census?

The Census is a process mandated by the Constitution that counts the population of people in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories (Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands). It is run by the U.S. Census Bureau, a nonpartisan government agency, and is taken every 10 years. A short questionnaire is given to households, and can be submitted online, through phone, or through mail. The 2020 census will also be the first time that individuals can respond online.


Due to being such a massive undertaking, there are multiple key dates to look out for in the process. Enumeration occurs over the course of two months:

  •  March 12-20 Invitations sent to all households.

  •  March 16-24 Reminder letter sent to all households.

  •  April 1 Census Day, the census bureau wants people to fill out the form as how their household looks on April 1st.

  •  March 26 - April 3 Reminder postcard sent to non-respondent households.

  •  April 8-16 Reminder letter and paper questionnaire sent to non-respondent households.

  •  April 20-27 Final reminder postcard sent.

  •  May In-person enumeration begins.

  • December The Census Bureau delivers apportionment counts to the President and Congress as required by law.

  • March 31 2021 By this date, the Census Bureau will send redistricting counts to states. This information is used to redraw legislative districts based on population changes.

Why Is It Important?

Census Data provides the federal government population data that enables districts to be redrawn. The Census offers the population data to these governments to ensure that the legislature/Independent commissions can redraw these congressional districts appropriately.


Redrawing districts play a pivotal role in how votes translate to seats. Depending on how districts are drawn, the partisan makeup of congressional members can shift, possibly altering the body as a whole. 


The data that the Census collects is also vital in determining how resources are divided among different districts and regions. The data helps distribute over $675 billion from the federal government to state & local governments, and different public programs, such as Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and the Federal Pell Grant Program. 

Businesses also find Census data valuable, as it helps to make decisions such as where to open new stores, where to expand operations, and which products and services to offer.

Undercounted Groups

  • Asian American & Pacific Islander

    • According to 2015 data, there are 58,000 undocumented AAPI’s in the Commonwealth, representing 1 in 4 of the undocumented populations in Virginia.

    • Factors: Language proficiency (linguistically isolated, areas with historically low rates of English proficiency have been undercounted) & housing insecurity. Almost half of AAPI’s who are low-income live in locations with the highest housing costs in the country, often leading to greater challenges in finding stable and affordable housing.

  • Black & African American

    • Factors: Poverty (25% African Americans in the U.S. live in poverty, exceeding the national poverty rate of 13%) & housing insecurity, as rising rent costs and stagnant wages make houses more unstable for them.

  • Hispanic/ Latinx

    • Factors: Language barrier- Almost a third of Hispanics (31%) speak English less than “very well.” Historically, areas with low rates of English proficiency have been undercounted.

    • Poverty: Hispanics have an official poverty rate of 21%, significantly higher than the official U.S. poverty rate of 13%. It is widely believed that households in poverty are difficult to enumerate.

    • Education: More than 60% of Hispanic adults have a high school degree or didn’t complete high school, compared to 40% of the total population. Areas with lower educational attainment are also hard to enumerate.

    • Immigrants: There is fear felt when speaking to officials due to the political climate.

  • Homeless Population

    • Factors: Transitory status - People experiencing homelessness are often temporary members of a household, or lack any form of housing.

  • Aging Population, Ages 65 & Older

    • Factors: Technological - As of 2015, only 58% of adults 65 and older use the internet.

    • This will be the first time the 2020 census will be offered online, which may cause challenges.

  • Young Children, 5 years old

    • In the 2010 Census, the net undercount rate for young children across the U.S. was 4.6%

    • Factors: Low-Income, complicated living arrangements (moving between multiple caregivers), language barriers

College Students: The Role of the 18-24 Year Demographic

Some college students are confused as to whether they should be counted at their parents’ residence of their college address. The Census states one should be counted in the place where they live and sleep for most of the year. Given this, college students can oftentimes be counted at their college residence.

How to Help

There are many different initiatives to help ensure that everyone is counted for the 2020 Census. 

Additional Resources