Making Sure Your Family Counts in the 2020 Census

It’s 2020, and the start of a new decade marks the time for a decennial Census. The Census is designed to count every living person in the country. This includes young children, citizens, non-citizens, immigrants, and those who were formerly incarcerated--everyone.

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Yet the Census is so much more than just a headcount. The results of the Census will affect New Jersey and its residents for the next ten years. Census data is used to fund crucial services including early childhood education, free and low-cost school meals, NJ Family Care, SNAP, special education, child care, and housing--to name a few. Furthermore, population numbers from the Census are used to shape our political voice and power, by determining our representation in Congress, the number of votes we have in the electoral college and how our voting districts are drawn.

The results of the Census will have a great impact on us and our community. A newborn or young child will spend most of his or her childhood not counted and therefore not represented, if missed in this year’s census. This was the case for 27,000 of New Jersey’s children in the 2010 Census. The repercussions of this undercount, meant that schools and other supporting services were insufficiently resourced for those communities. However, participation is relatively simple. The survey takes only about 10 minutes and can be completed on your own schedule. Here’s what you need to know about how the Census works to make sure you and your family are counted.

Beginning in March of this year, households will receive invitations with instructions to complete the Census either by phone or online. Paper questionnaires will also be mailed to households. Need foreign-language support? The online and phone options will be available in 12 different languages, while the paper questionnaire will be available in English or Spanish only.

Households should complete their questionnaires as soon as possible, either online, over the phone or by mail. Starting in May, workers from the Census Bureau will begin visiting households in person to follow up with those who have not completed the survey. By completing the questionnaire before the end of April, families can reduce their chances of having a Census taker visit them in person.

Here are a few things families should keep in mind when completing their Census. First, remember to count all the related and unrelated children who live and sleep at your home most of the time, even if the living arrangement is temporary. Second, young children are the most under-counted age group in the U.S. Census, so do not forget the baby! Third, federal law prohibits the Census Bureau from sharing information with other government agencies or law enforcement. No one can use your Census information to reduce your benefits, evict you, deport you or fine you.

The results of the U.S. Census matter to all of us, and your participation ensures that your community receives the resources it needs. For more information, visit the U.S. Census Website or the Advocates for Children of New Jersey’s Census Page.

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