Busting 5 myths about the 2020 Census

This March 23, 2018 photo shows an envelope containing a 2018 census test letter mailed to a resident in Providence, R.I.
This March 23, 2018 photo shows an envelope containing a 2018 census test letter mailed to a resident in Providence, R.I. (Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

We’re just weeks away from the start of the 2020 Census.

Starting in mid-March, households will begin receiving official Census Bureau mail with detailed information on how to respond to the 2020 Census.

Once the invitation arrives, you should respond for your home in one of three ways: online, by phone, or by mail. When you respond to the census, you’ll tell the Census Bureau where you live as of April 1, 2020.

(This first appeared in the Morning Report Newsletter -- sign up for it right here)

The results of the 2020 Census will help determine how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding flow into communities every year for the next decade. That funding shapes many different aspects of every community, no matter the size, no matter the location.

Despite its importance, many fear the Census because of unfounded rumors and conspiracy theories that float around the internet, especially targeting minority and low-income communities. So, I figured we’d bust some of the myths.

Does the 2020 Census ask about citizenship status?

NO. The 2020 Census does not ask whether you or anyone in your home is a U.S. citizen.

Are non-citizens counted in the census?

YES. Everyone counts. The 2020 Census counts everyone living in the country, including non-citizens.

Can my answers be shared with law enforcement or used against me?

NO. The law prevents the Census Bureau from sharing your information with law enforcement. Your answers cannot be used to impact your eligibility for government benefits. Your answers are only used to create statistics about our country. The Census Bureau is bound by Title 13 of the U.S. Code to protect your personal information and keep it strictly confidential. That’s every answer, to every question.

Can I only take the census online?

NO. The 2020 Census will be available online, by phone, and by mail. Online and phone responses can be completed in 13 languages (English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, and Japanese). A paper form will be mailed to every house that hasn’t responded already when we send our fourth mail piece out.

What questions WILL NOT be asked by the Census Bureau?

During the 2020 Census, the Census Bureau will never ask you for:

  • Your Social Security number.
  • Money or donations.
  • Anything on behalf of a political party.
  • Your bank or credit card account numbers.

If someone claiming to be from the Census Bureau contacts you via email or phone and asks you for one of these things, it’s a scam, and you should not cooperate.

Bonus: Are People Posing as “Department of Home Affairs” Workers and Checking IDs for the Census?

There is a false rumor circulating online that individuals posing as workers for the “Department of Home Affairs” are going door-to-door to confirm that everyone has a valid ID for the 2020 Census — and committing crimes at homes they are pretending to canvass.

This is a hoax that originated overseas.

The truth is, census employees are in neighborhoods across the country as they prepare for next year’s census. However, census employees are not asking the public for any identification. Furthermore, it should be noted that the United States does not have a Department of Home Affairs.

Learn more: What to know about the upcoming 2020 Census

About the Author:

Ken Haddad is the digital special projects manager for WDIV / ClickOnDetroit.com. He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters. He's been with WDIV since 2013.