Despite coronavirus outbreak, 2020 census is too important to ignore

April 1, 2020

Every 10 years, the U.S. Census Bureau has one shot to accurately count everyone who lives in the United States and the five U.S. territories. Although the census has been around since 1790, many are uninformed about its importance.

The census takes place on April 1 and asks nine questions—beginning with “How many people were living or staying in this house, apartment or mobile home on April 1, 2020?”—to gather information about the population.

Now, how could a brief survey have such a vast impact? One answer is that it determines which communities, schools, hospitals and roads deserve the most federal funding.

In general, the census has been accurate, but some groups, such as renters and minorities, have been undercounted.

According to the Census Bureau, the federal government uses census numbers to allocate more than $675 billion annually in federal funds for community programs and services, such as education programs, housing and community development, health care services for the elderly and job training. Essentially, the more people who report in a community, the more money will be distributed to those community members who are in need.

In general, the census has been accurate, but some groups, such as renters and minorities, have been undercounted. This is an issue since incorrect numbers could lead to communities becoming insufficiently funded. 


According to the Government Accountability Office, the average cost for counting a housing unit increased from about $16 in 1970 to around $92 in 2010, accounting for inflation, in part because the nation’s population has become more difficult to count. Some argue that costs are too high, but it is a small price to pay considering how much federal money is consequently allocated.

The census is also responsible for correctly apportioning seats in the U.S. House of Representatives among the states, which is stated in the U.S. Constitution. Each state gains, loses or has an unchanged number of seats based on shifts in its population size.

Some have concerns about the census because they believe it is an invasion of privacy. However, the census never asks for one’s Social Security number, credit card information, political party affiliation, money, donations or citizenship status.

Since a complete and accurate response is critically important, it is required that every household fill out the census. If a household chooses not to respond, the Census Bureau will follow up in person. However, due to the coronavirus outbreak, having a stranger approach one’s house is not ideal. To avoid this, people have to be responsible and submit the census without needing in-person prompting.

In fact, completing the census has never been faster or easier. For the first time in history, the census—which is available in 13 languages—will prioritize its collection of responses on the internet, while also keeping mail as an option. Not only does this make for easy access, but it also minimizes the spread of germs through the mail.

At this time, the people of the United States are facing unprecedented challenges and uncertainty, and that makes the census more important than ever. More accurate responses will help the government provide all Americans with the political representation and federal aid they require and deserve. 

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