March 26, 2020, by Ariann Nassel, LHC Director of Geospatial Data Visualization


census graphicThe first wave of letters containing Census forms were mailed out to approximately 140 million households two weeks ago and last week those letters were followed up with reminder letters for households that had not already responded. If you’ve been busy and haven’t gone through the pile of mail on your kitchen counter, stop everything, find the letter, and fill out the form either online ( or over the phone ( If neither of those options works for you, a form will be mailed to you later in the month.

I received my letter on March 12th at 5:52 pm. Including the time it took to open the letter, sit down on the sofa, and log on to the internet, I had completed it by 6pm. That’s, right it only took me 8 minutes.

But, there might be a few other things going on right now that have your attention. You might be wondering, "Why bother with the Census?"


Here are some reasons why:

  • census ht jpo 180906 hpMain 16x9 992It’s the law: Yup, that’s right: The Law. It was written into the U.S Constitution that the federal government must count every person in the United States every 10 years and that everyone living in the United States and its five territories must respond.
  • It impacts governmental representation. The count of everyone and where they live is used to determine the number of seats each state holds in the U.S. House of Representatives and the number of electoral votes allocated to that State.
  • It provides information that the Federal Government uses to distribute BILLIONS of dollars of federal funding to states and local governments throughout the country.
  • Census results affect planning and funding for education — including programs such as Head Start, Pell Grants, school lunches, rural education, adult education, and grants for preschool special education.

Here are the questions you will be asked:

  1. How many people were living or staying in this house, apartment, or mobile home on April 1, 2020?
  2. Were there any additional people staying here on April 1, 2020, that you did not include in Question 1?
  3. Is this house, apartment, mobile home, etc. owned by you or someone in this household with a mortgage or loan? Include home equity loans. Is it owned by you or someone in this household free and clear (without a mortgage or loan)? Rented? Occupied without payment of rent?
  4. What is your telephone number?
  5. What is Person 1's name? If there is someone living here who pays the rent or owns the residence, start by listing him or her as Person 1. If the owner or the person who pays the rent does not live here, start by listing any adult living there as Person 1.
  6. What is Person 1's sex?
  7. What is Person 1's age and date of birth?
  8. Is Person 1 of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin?
  9. What is Person 1's race?

For the other people included in your form, the questions are as follows:

  1. Print the name of Person 2
  2. Does this person usually live or stay somewhere else?
  3. How is this person related to Person 1?
  4. What is this person's sex?
  5. What is this person's age and date of birth?
  6. Is this person of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin?
  7. What is this person's race?

Questions 1 through 7 are repeated for each individual in your home. Fill these in for everyone who lives at your house, then you’re done!

Here's a PDF of the form itself

Concerned about your privacy? Here are the reasons why you don’t need to be:

  • The Census Bureau is bound by Title 13 of the U.S. Code to keep your information confidential. Violating Title 13 is a federal crime, punishable by prison time and/or a fine of up to $250,000.
  • The Census Bureau cannot release any identifiable information about you, your home, or your business, even to law enforcement agencies.
  • The answers you provide are used only to produce statistics.
  • You remain anonymous.

That’s all there is to it. For the time you spend answering the 12 questions listed above your community schools, public transit systems, and programs for housing assistance, senior citizen and Head Start programs locally and in your State will benefit.


Wondering about response rates? Check out this map from the Census! At the publishing of this blog post, Alabama has a 27.7% response rate. For more information about how the 2020 Census could affect Alabamians, click here!