August 8, 2019 Get Out the Count

Libraries’ Guide to the 2020 Census

The census, conducted once every 10 years, is the constitutionally-required count of every person living in the United States. It’s a huge and complex endeavor, one with an enormous impact on all our communities. The 2020 Census will be the first to urge most households to respond online, but people will also have the option of responding by phone or paper questionnaire.

The decennial census form asks questions about all the people who live and sleep in a household most of the time—including babies and anyone who has no other permanent place to stay and is staying in the household—as of April 1, 2020. The census form should take about 10 minutes to complete, depending on the number of people in the household.

Census data are used to make decisions about how and where to spend more than $800 billion each year for programs and services that communities rely on. Census data also drive federal funding allocations for libraries, including grants to states under the Library Services and Technology Act. The census population count is used to determine representation in Congress (known as reapportionment) and the Electoral College. Simply put, communities that are undercounted are disadvantaged economically and politically.