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Conducting the Count

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The 2020 Census was a massive undertaking. It required counting a diverse and growing population in the United States. To do this, the U.S. Census Bureau:

  • Made a list of every residence in the 50 states, District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories—including houses, apartments, dormitories, military barracks, and more.
  • Asked a member of every household to complete the census online, by phone, or by mail.
  • Followed up with households that did not respond on their own.

With the count complete, the Census Bureau is now processing the data—ensuring that everyone is counted once, only once, and in the right place.

 

Processing the Data

After concluding the count in October, the Census Bureau began processing the data. This includes:

  • Finalizing all of the addresses that should be included in the census.
  • Checking responses for duplicates to ensure that everyone is counted only once and in the right place.
  • Coding and tabulating write-in responses.
  • In rare instances, using a statistical method called imputation to account for missing data. This technique enables us to fill in missing information using what we already know about an address and its nearest, similar neighbor.

Protecting your responses is a critical part of this process.

We are now turning the data into anonymous statistics, ensuring that your personal information remains private—and that no one can be identified when the final data is released. To learn more about this process, visit How the Census Bureau Protects Your Data.

Delivering the Results

Once we process the results, our next step is to deliver the data.

As close as possible to December 31, 2020, we will deliver the first results from the 2020 Census -- state population counts. These counts determine how many seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives—a process known as apportionment.

As close to April 1, 2021, as possible, the Census Bureau will deliver local counts to each state. This information is used for redistricting—redrawing legislative districts based on population changes.

To learn more, please visit Important Dates.

Collecting Responses

There were three ways that the Census Bureau initially collected responses from people for the 2020 Census: online, by phone, and by mail.

Between March 12 - 20, most households received an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census. The invitation included instructions for how to respond online, by phone, or by mail.

The Census Bureau then followed up—in person or over the phone—with households that did not respond to the census on their own.

If a household didn’t respond after one or more census taker visits, the Census Bureau checked to see if high-quality administrative records were available to provide information for the address. The Census Bureau used these existing data sources only if confident of their quality and accuracy for that household. Otherwise, census takers continued to visit the household.

When a census taker could not get a response directly from a household after three visits, they sought information about that address from a proxy such as a neighbor, landlord, or building manager.

No matter how a household was counted, the Census Bureau checks the quality of the information.
 


You may receive have received a call from the Census Bureau to remind you to respond to the 2020 Census or to ask clarifying questions about your responses.

Counting Everyone in the Right Place

To ensure a complete and accurate count, the Census Bureau counted people at their usual residence as of April 1, 2020, which was the place where they lived and slept most of the time, with a few exceptions. For more details about where people were counted, visit the Who to Count page.

The Census Bureau has special processes in place to ensure that everyone in the 50 states, District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories was counted. 

Click the links below to learn more about counting the following groups:

 

Response Rates

Explore how people in your community responded to the 2020 Census. Use these maps of response rates to learn more.

Sign up to receive updates when 2020 Census results become available.


The 2020 Census began by counting people in remote Alaskan villages and communities in January to account for travel challenges in the spring months.

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