2020 Census to count every person living in the United States

Mar 20, 2020

The 2020 Census counts every person living in the United States and five U.S. territories. The count is mandated by the Constitution and conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, a nonpartisan government agency. The 2020 Census counts the population in the United States and five U.S. territories (Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands). 


Each home should have received an invitation to respond to a short questionnaire—online, by phone, or by mail—between March 12-20.

Credit Michigan State University

“Two of the most critical things that are determined based on the census are the number of legislative seats for each state. They're used to draw congressional and state legislative districts. The other thing is, frankly, federal funding,” says Sue Webster. She's a community liaison in Michigan State University's Offices of Government Relations and Student Affairs and Services. “When you're thinking about federal monies, which go to local hospitals, fire departments, schools, roads, and many other resources, those are based on census data. So that's why it's so important for each community to get involved.”

What do we need to do and when do we need to do it?

“It can be completed online, which many people are utilizing. There's a degree of comfort with working on things online for those of us that are well versed in it. But if you would prefer to send in a form by mail you can do that, and you can also call in.”

Do students report they live in East Lansing? Or their hometown?

“You should report yourself living in the community where you've been for at least six months. In the case of students who have been living on campus, for the first time the Census Bureau is allowing the institution to upload that data - in essence, counting all of the students who live on campus. Even if they've moved home, they will be counted as having been here.

Credit Michigan State University

“We have students who live off campus and they may have opted to go home. We want them to be aware that they should count themselves still living in this particular community because they've been here for six months or more.

“It’s important to understand why this is critical and why we're doing it and how it's mandated by the US constitution. One of the things I hear a lot is the question about citizenship. Who should fill this out? If they are, for instance, international students or people who have different citizenship statuses?  The census does not inquire about citizenship. It doesn't ask if anyone in your home is a citizen or if you're a citizen. Non-citizens need to be counted. Everybody should be counted. When we're looking at overall numbers, we're looking at services needed in a community. It's really important to make sure everyone is counted.

“The answers that are provided can't be shared with law enforcement. And you're not going to be asked for your social security number, money, or donations. This is not being asked on behalf of any political party. No one should be asking about credit card numbers or banks or anything like that.”

Learn more at msu.edu/census2020.

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