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Alameda County Library

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Everything You Need to Know About the Census

by Chelsey Roos on 2020-09-01T09:26:47-07:00 | Comments

Everything You Need to Know About the Census 

A classroom of kids excitedly raising their hands, with the words Everything You Need to Know About the Census

The deadline to complete the census is September 30th, and it’s rapidly approaching. According to the 2020 census, almost thirty percent of Alameda County has yet to complete their census! Let’s answer some of the most common questions about the census that might be keeping you from responding. 

Q: How do I complete the census? 

A: You can complete the census online, by phone (see the phone number to call for your preferred language here), or by mail using the paper form that was mailed to your home back in April. 

Q: What is the census data used for? 

A: According to the Census Bureau website, census data is used to distribute billions of dollars in federal funding, which goes to hospitals, fire departments, schools, roads, and more every year. The results of the census also determine the number of seats each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives, and they are used to draw congressional and state legislative districts. According to research professor Andrew Reamer, California receives a whopping $172 billion in federal money, based on population. That buys a lot of sorely needed services! 

Q: Does the census ask about my immigration status? 

A: Absolutely not. There is a lot of understandable confusion about this question, because at one point the current presidential administration discussed adding a question about immigration status. But to be completely clear, there is no question about immigration status on the census.  

Q: What does the census ask? 

A: The census asks a few relatively short questions. It asks how many people were living in your home on April 1, 2020, and whether you own your home or rent. It asks for your phone number. For each person in the household, it asks for their name, sex, age, date of birth, race and ethnicity. It also asks how you are related to the people in your household. Although the census does ask if you or the members of your household are of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin, this is not related to immigration status. 

Q: Are my answers kept private and safe? 

A: The Census Bureau is required to keep your information secure. It can never be shared with someone like your landlord. The census never asks for information like your social security number or bank account information. When information is used for statistical purposes (like drawing congressional districts) your information is anonymous. Furthermore, the Census Bureau is prohibited by law from sharing any of your information with a law enforcement agency. 

Q: What if I or someone I know doesn’t speak English? 

A: You can complete the census online in 13 languages, including English, Spanish, Chinese (simplified), Japanese, and Arabic. If you answer by phone, support is offered in 14 languages. If none of these options work, you can also find translations and instructions in more than fifty languages here

Q: I’m just one person. What’s the harm in not completing the census? 

A: School lunches. Public transit. Head Start programs. Medicaid. Section 8 public housing. Drug addiction treatment. Wildfire management. These are just a few of the critical services that lose money when a community is under-counted. With wildfires raging in California, housing in an ever increasing shortage, and education at a critical crossroads, Alameda County can’t afford to under-count our population. Your response matters. You matter. And there’s still time to respond. 

If you have more questions about the Census, visit the Census Bureau’s official website to learn more. And if you want to learn more about how you can support your community, check out our guide all about Civic Participation

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