Analysis: The Condition of the 2020 U.S. Census
With the coronavirus pandemic stirring up a storm in every corner of government and business, thousands of people may be wondering if the census will accomplish its constitutionally-mandated goal of recording the U.S. population by the end of this year.
The short answer is that you can still fill out your census information online if you haven’t already; follow all procedures from the mailed Census Bureau’s instructions you should have received along with their official website to make sure you are accounted for. Many people aren’t aware of this, but the only truly required question is about how many people live in your household. Remember, filling out the census correctly is legally mandated and can result in fines if you ignore it or lie on it. The census is made to be short, simple, and safe.
The majority of U.S. adults have received Census letters and answered the census questionnaire by now, but with COVID-19 affecting housing, transportation, and distribution, is their information safe? Is the 2020 Census postponed? Has the Census Bureau continued reaching out to people?
A new Pew Research study aimed to answer some of these questions and learn if people are still hearing about the 2020 census and planning on answering. This study covered over 3400 adults in the US and was conducted during February and March.
The same study found that consistent with their January research, about 7% of respondents “definitely/probably won’t” respond to their census questions. That 7% of people, reflecting on the whole U.S. adult population, could be well over 17 million people that are unaccounted for and punished for not answering.
On the flip side, 83% claim they “probably” or “definitely” will respond, a 4% increase from January’s results. The remainder of respondents seemed relatively unsure, with about 10% saying they “might/might not” respond.
Interestingly, the study found that a similar proportion of Democrats and Republicans plan on answering their census. Both sides also comparably expressed beliefs that the census “will at least somewhat be successful” counting residents and that the census would not overwhelmingly benefit one party over the other. Regardless of party, however, this study concluded that, despite coronavirus dominating the news cycle, an increasing number of people have heard something about the 2020 U.S. Census recently.
Some additional key takeaways are that most who heard information on it saw it through an advertisement or news story, heard positive coverage over negative coverage, and preferred to answer online. As far as demographics go, black adults were more likely to have heard something over white adults, older adults were more likely to have heard something over younger adults, and college graduates were more likely to have heard something over non-graduates. For more trends and statistics, you can read the full report here.
So is the Census still conducting field surveys, hiring people, and pursuing harder to reach areas in-person? According to a recent Census press release, the answer is currently “no”.
The Census is preparing to reopen offices by June 1st, 2020, but they have suspended in-person operations until further notice. This means temporary workers that have not worked yet may not get to work or get paid until then. For temporary employees that have worked, the Census has been updating people and paying for their hours. For most people, the point stands that the Census is still collecting results and requesting for people to fill out their information; data collection and self-response has been extended to October 31, 2020.