Census FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Census?

Every ten years, the Census counts every person living in the United States, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories.

The count is mandated by the Constitution and conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, a nonpartisan government agency.

Why does the Census matter?


Every year, the federal government distributes $675 billion for programs and services like schools, roads, public transit, and public safety. This funding is distributed based on population.

The State of California currently receives over $76 billion annually. An undercount of our population would mean we could lose approximately $1000 per person, per year for the next ten years.


The results of this once-a-decade count determine the number of seats each state has in the House of Representatives. They are also used to draw congressional and state legislative districts.

Learn more about the importance of the Census here.

What questions does the Census ask?

The 2020 Census is easy. You will answer a simple questionnaire about yourself and everyone who is living with you on April 1, 2020. To see a sample questionnaire and learn more about the questions the Census will ask (and won’t ask) check out the Census Bureau’s Questions Asked page.

To better understand why specific questions are asked, check out this quick Why We Ask guide.

Is my Census data safe?

The U.S. Census Bureau is bound by law to protect your answers and keep them strictly confidential. In fact, every employee takes an oath to protect your personal information for life.

Learn more about how the U.S. Census Bureau protects your information on their Data Protection page or download a flyer on Census Safety & Security and a Confidentiality Fact Sheet.

How are people experiencing homelessness counted?

Group Quarters Enumeration

The U.S. Census Bureau’s Group Quarters Enumeration counts individuals who are staying in places where people who are not related live or stay in a group living arrangement that is owned or managed by an entity or organization providing housing and/or services for the residents. Examples include:

  • Skilled nursing facility
  • Military barracks
  • Group home
  • Correctional facility
  • Workers’ dormitory
  • Transitional shelter
  • Residential treatment center

Service Based Enumeration

Individuals and families experiencing homelessness will be counted during Service Based Enumeration, which includes:

  • Emergency and transitional shelters
  • Soup kitchens
  • Regularly scheduled mobile food vans
  • Targeted Non-Sheltered Outdoor Locations (TNSOL)

Service Based Enumeration will take place between March 30 and April 1, 2020.


“Transitory locations” are sites that contain movable or mobile housing that may include transitory units such as boats, motorized recreational vehicles or trailers (RVs), tents, or other types of portable housing.

Transitory locations also include hotels or motels if being occupied on a transitory basis because the occupants have no other residence.

Transitory locations will be counted between March 24 and May 6, 2020.

Submit Your Census Question

Do you have a question that we did not address here? Submit your question below and we will try to find an answer for you.

Census Questions