2020 Census Guide

Once a decade, America holds its constitutionally mandated census count. Every census aims to count the entire population of the country, and at the location where each person usually lives. The 2020 Census will be the 24th time that the country has counted its population since 1790.

Who is counted?
Everyone living in the 50 states, District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories is required by law to be counted in the 2020 Census.

Respondents should count everyone who is living in their home on April 1, 2020.

  • This includes people living here who are not citizens of the United States. There will not be a question about citizenship on the 2020 Census. Census guides are available in multiple languages.
  • College students who live away from home should count themselves at the on- or off-campus residence where they live and sleep most of the time. For example, an MU student in Columbia might consider O’Fallon, Missouri their “home town,” but they need to count themselves at their residence in Columbia.
  • Even babies should be counted! Young children are one of the groups at risk of being undercounted.

Why Your Answers Matter
Census results = representation, funding, and services.

  • Representation: Census numbers determine the number of seats a state has in the U.S. House of Representatives and determines the districts for state government.
  • As a result of the 2010 Census, Missouri lost a congressional seat and hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding.
  • Funding: Census numbers guide the distribution of between $600 and $800 billion in federal funding to local communities yearly. Missouri received approximately $16.5 billion in federal funds in Fiscal year 2016, which were directly calculated from census data.
  • For every person undercounted, Missouri forfeits an estimated $1,272 in federal dollars.
  • Planning: Census numbers are used in the creation and upkeep of local services such as roads, schools, hospitals, senior centers, emergency services and libraries.
  • Businesses: The demographic data are used in the creation of factories, locating business headquarters and stores, as well as the ability to recruit employees and conduct market research.

The Questionnaire
On the census questionnaire you will be asked a simple set of questions about yourself and everyone who is living with you on April 1, 2020.

  • You can find the questions that will be asked, tips for responding and information on how the Census Bureau will use your answers here.

The questionnaire can be completed online, by phone or by mail.

  • Each home will receive an invitation in the mail to respond.
  • Online: For the first time in history, there will be the option to fill out the census online.
  • By phone: 1-800 numbers will be available to give the response over the phone.
  • In writing: A paper form will be mailed to each household.
  • In person: Census volunteers will visit homes that haven’t responded to the 2020 Census to make sure everyone is counted.

The answers you provide are used only to produce statistics. You are kept anonymous: The Census Bureau is not permitted to publicly release your responses in any way that could identify you or anyone else in your home.

  • The Census Bureau is bound by Title 13 of the U.S. Code to keep your information confidential. Under Title 13, the Census Bureau cannot release any identifiable information about you, your home, or your business, even to law enforcement agencies.
  • Strict policies and safeguards protect the confidentiality of your information. Before releasing data products, the Census Bureau verifies that they meet its confidentiality standards.
  • The Census Bureau will not send unsolicited emails to request your participation in the 2020 Census. Do not reply to an email, do not click on any links, and do not open any attachments. Forward the email or website URL to the Census Bureau at ois.fraud.reporting@census.gov.
  • During the 2020 Census, the Census Bureau will never ask for your social security number, bank account or credit card numbers, money or donations.
  • You can go to this page to check the validity of any rumors you come across. 
  • If you have questions about the authenticity of a letter or form you receive, call the Regional Office for your state to verify the household survey.
  • If someone visits your residence to complete a survey: Check first for a valid U.S. Census Bureau ID badge. If you are still unsure, call your Regional Office to verify the visitor is a Census Bureau employee.


Please Note– The Census Bureau has made operational adjustments to some dates due to COVID-19. A full list of changes can be found here.

  • March 12-20: An invitation to respond to the census online will be sent to every home. It will contain detailed information on how to respond to the 2020 Census.
  • April 1: Census Day is observed nationwide. By this date, every home will have received an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census.
  • April 2 – September 3: Census takers visit people who live among large groups, such as college students in dorms, and residents of senior centers. Census takers will also begin conducting quality check interviews to help ensure an accurate count.
  • August 11 – October 5: The Census Bureau visits homes that haven’t responded to the 2020 Census to make sure everyone is counted.

Mobile Questionnaire Assistance

Census Bureau staff are going into communities with the lowest 2020 Census response rates to encourage and assist people with responding on their own to the 2020 Census. This operation, known as the Mobile Questionnaire Assistance (MQA) program, is a separate activity from census takers going door to door to count households that have not yet responded.

Census Bureau staff will be offering Mobile Questionnaire Assistance at these Columbia locations through September 30th:

  • Tuesdays
    Daniel Boone Regional Library
    100 W. Broadway
    10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
  • Wednesdays
    Activity and Recreation Center (The ARC)
    1701 W. Ash St.
    9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
  • Thursdays
    Columbia City Hall
    701 E. Broadway
    10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
  • Fridays
    Columbia City Hall
    701 E Broadway
    10:00 a.m. -12:00 p.m.
  • Saturdays
    Activity and Recreation Center (The ARC)
    1701 W. Ash St.
    10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
    Daniel Boone Regional Library
    100 W. Broadway
    1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.