CensusFAQ

Find new information related to COVID-19 throughout and at the end of this FAQ.

What is the U.S. Census?

Once every 10 years, the U.S. Constitution requires a full count of the population to reapportion seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. That exercise — the U.S. Census — begins mid-March 2020.

How will the U.S. Census Bureau contact me and how should I respond?

Starting in March (between March 12 and 20), the U.S. Census Bureau started contacting households and off-campus housing units through a series of mailings. You may respond online, by mail, or by phone. If you do not live where you did winter term and do not have access to the mailing you received with a code on it, you can still respond online or request a form; go to 2020Census.gov.

Beginning in May 2020 (and depending on the status COVID-19 related social distancing recommendations/orders), the U.S. Census Bureau will send enumerators to knock on the doors of households that have not yet responded.

Why should students care?

Census data impacts funding for things like safety, the Federal Pell Grant Program, student wellness programs, food and housing security programs, and community mental health assistance programs.

In 2016 alone, Oregon received over $13.4 billion in federal assistance, based on data collected during the 2010 Census. The census also determines Oregon’s political representation through the number of representatives our state has in the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as the number of electoral votes. This is essential to amplifying Oregon’s voice in Washington, D.C.

What does “residence” mean and how do I count the “residents” in my house?

College students are to be counted at the on- or off-campus residence where they lived and slept WINTER TERM 2020. Even international and out-of-state students should be counted in Oregon if they are residing here while attending college, even if you are not living on or near campus Spring Term. More information about counting students and others are found under the Special Circumstances” heading on the Census Bureau’s Who to Count page. 

COVID-19 related note about where to be counted: Because of the unusual situation college students around the country are experiencing as the Census count takes place, the Census created this video to explain the reason you should be counted where you lived before the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your living situation. 

If you live with University Housing:

  • Residence Halls and Graduate Village: The Census Bureau is working with with an identified “group quarters” administrator to ensure that you are counted. Because University Housing is completing the Census on your behalf, YOU DO NOT NEED TO FILL OUT A CENSUS FORM. Make sure your parents/guardians do not count you in their census. University Housing will be providing directory information only.
  • Spencer View Apartments, Agate Apartments, Moon Court Apartments and East Campus Houses: Follow directions in the next question.

How long does it take to complete the census and who fills it out?

It takes about 10 minutes to answer the questions, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. One person living in the household fills it out for everyone.

What questions does the census ask?

For a complete list of census questions, go to United States Census 2020 Questions Asked.

Is it mandatory to participate in the census?

Yes. Title 13 of U.S. code (Sections 221) require individuals to answer the census completely and truthfully to avoid fines. But more importantly, your participation in the census is vital to your community’s future, because a complete and accurate count will ensure Oregon receives its fair share of federal funding and congressional representation.

Is census information confidential?

The U.S. Census Bureau takes their responsibility to protect your information very seriously. The law puts in place very stringent measures to protect your information. The Census Bureau is not permitted to publicly release your responses in a way that could identify you or your household. By law, the Census Bureau can only use your responses to produce statistics. Your information is also protected from cybersecurity risks through screening of the systems that transmit your data. All web data submissions are encrypted in order to protect your privacy. The penalty for unlawful disclosure is a fine of up to $250,000 or imprisonment of up to five years, or both.

What is the timeline?

While this timeline may be extended due to the impact of COVID-19, the original timeline for the process began in mid-March 2020 and ends at the end of July. Those who do not respond will receive reminders in the mail until the beginning of May, when Census Bureau staff will begin going door-to-door to contact those who do not respond. Results must be delivered to the President of the United States by Dec. 31, 2020.

How does COVID-19, and where I’m currently living because of it, impact the census?

The U.S. Census Bureau recognizes that COVID-19 has impacted where college students are residing during the 2020 Census counting process and has adjusted operations accordingly. The guidance for where students should be counted has not changed; per the Census Bureau’s residence criteria, in most cases students living away from home at school should be counted at school, even if they are temporarily elsewhere due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For more information, go to 2020census.gov.