Frequently Asked Questions

GENERAL QUESTIONS

What is the Census?

The Census is a count of every resident in the United States and has been conducted every 10 years since 1790. Required by Article 1, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution, the primary purpose of the Census is to determine the number of representatives each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives.  

The 2020 Census counts all persons living in the United States on April 1, 2020. It uses a questionnaire sent to all residences in the U.S. with questions about the number of people living in each residence in addition to some general demographic and household information (age, sex, race, relationship, tenure, etc.).  

How is the Census used?

The Census is used in a variety of ways, but major examples include:

  • Representation in Congress. The Census is used to determine the number of representatives each state receives in the U.S. House of Representatives. Texas currently has 36 representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives and may gain up to three additional seats following the 2020 Census.
  • Redistricting. Once complete, each state will use data from the Census to redraw the boundaries of congressional districts so that each district includes roughly the same number of people. The data is also often used to redraw the boundaries for state and local governments. For example, the City of Plano used 2010 Census data to redraw City Council boundaries and is likely to review the boundaries again following the 2020 Census.
  • Distribution of Federal Funds. More than $675 billion in federal funds are distributed to the states based upon Census data. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates Plano stands to lose about $1,500 per person per year in federal funding for every person not counted in the 2020 Census.
  • Planning for Transportation, Infrastructure and Social Services. Census data is used by federal, state and local governments to plan for new roads, transportation improvements, schools, emergency services and much more.
  • Ensuring Equal Opportunity.  Data about sex, age, race and ethnicity are used to help governments and communities enforce anti-discrimination laws, regulations, and policies.  Examples include the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Public Health Service Act, the Voting Rights Act and the 1968 Fair Housing Act.
  • Understanding Change. Census data helps us understand, forecast and locate change in population growth and demographics in our communities. For instance, Plano has experienced a rapid growth in the number of older adults residents who were born in another country since 1990. Understanding these types of changes and where they are happening is critical to providing essential city services to meet the community's needs.

NOTE: Census data is only used for statistical purposes and is never used to identify individuals.

What questions will be asked on the Census form?

The 2020 Census form is mailed to all residential addresses in the country. The "head of household" (Person 1) for each address should complete the form for all residents who live in that household as of April 1, 2020. This includes spouses, children, parents/grandparents, roommates and any other unrelated persons living in the household.  

For the Head of Household (Person 1):

  • Number of people living or staying in the household on April 1, 2020. (excludes anyone living away at college, in the Armed Forces, or anyone in a nursing home, jail, prison or detention facility)
  • Tenure (Do you own, have a mortgage or rent the residence?)
  • Telephone Number

For All Persons:

  • Name
  • Age and Date of Birth
  • Citizenship Status
  • Hispanic Origin
  • Race
  • Sex
  • Relationship to Person 1 (Head of Household)

Sample Census Form Coming Soon!

WARNING: The 2020 Census form will only include the questions listed in the sample form above.  If you receive a form asking for any additional information, such as bank account or credit card information, contact the U.S. Census Bureau immediately.

Note: Some households may receive both a 2020 Census form and an American Community Survey (ACS) in the same year. The ACS includes additional questions about income, occupation, housing value and more. See "Did the Census Bureau send me two Census forms?" below.

Why does the Census Bureau want to know the answers to these questions?

In addition to providing a basic count of all persons living in the United States, the Census is used to determine demographic and household information about the U.S. population. This information, along with more detail information included in the American Community Survey, is used by public, private and non-profit agencies to provide programs, projects and services that we rely on in our everyday lives. See the Ways the Census is Used page for more information.

What happens to my information after I complete the Census form?  How is it secured?

After the Census Bureau receives your form, your responses are combined with all other households in your Census "block." Several blocks of data are then combined into "block groups" and ultimately "tracts." When Census data is released to the public (starting in 2021), the smallest areas of data available will be at the block group level. No individual forms, including address and contact information, will be made available to the public.

Once the 2020 Census is complete, individual Census forms are transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration where they are kept confidential and secure for 72 years. After that time, they become available to the public.  For example, the last release of individual Census responses were from the 1940 Census on April 2, 2012. Records from the 1950 Census will be released April 1, 2022. Individual forms from the 2020 Census are not released until April 1, 2092.

Click here for more information.

When will I receive my Census form?

On or between:
You'll receive:
March 12-20, 2020An invitation to respond online to the 2020 Census.
March 16-24, 2020A reminder letter.

If you haven't responded yet:
March 26-April 3, 2020A reminder postcard.
April 8-16, 2020A reminder letter and paper questionnaire.
April 20-27A final reminder postcard.

If you still haven't responded yet:
May 2020The Census Bureau will follow up in person.

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Can I complete my Census form online?

Yes!  The 2020 Census will be the first Census to be completed online. You may also respond by mail or by phone. If you or someone you know does not have a computer, the City of Plano libraries have computers available to complete your form.


SCENARIO SPECIFIC QUESTIONS

When I complete my Census form, do I include people who typically live here but are away on April 1, 2020?

The intent of the Census is to understand how many people live or sleep in a residence, for most of their time, as of April 1, 2020. In addition to sending Census forms to each individual household, forms will also be provided to group facilities such as dormitories, nursing homes and correctional facilities. 

Did the Census Bureau send me two Census forms?

Only one 2020 Census form should be mailed to each household. If you received a second form, check to see if one is actually the American Community Survey (ACS). The ACS is a separate questionnaire mailed by the Census Bureau to 3.5 million households every year, including Census years. If you have received an ACS form and a 2020 Census form, you should complete both. If you have any questions, please contact the U.S. Census Bureau for assistance.

I recently moved or am planning to move.  Should I take my form with me?

Census forms are mailed to the "head of household" for all residential addresses in Plano, not to an individual name or any specific person, and will include a unique PIN for that address. If you recently moved or are planning to move, you should complete a Census form for the address where you live on April 1, 2020. Do not complete a Census form for an old address if you did not live at that location on or after April 1, 2020.