For 2020, the Census Bureau encourages U.S. citizens to complete the census online and use a special code they receive in the mail. (If you don`t have the code, you can still fill it out online with your address.) The census website states this message: “Everyone living in the United States and its five territories is required by law to be counted in the 2020 Census.” What does this mean in practice? If you don`t fill out the form, will you get into trouble? The real risk of not responding to the census is lack of funding and political representation, says Kristen Seefeldt, an associate professor at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. The same privacy laws apply, and they protect data provided online in the same way they would protect data you declare in person, over the phone, or by mail. The online census raises other concerns related to cybersecurity (e.g., how the government prevents bad actors from hacking your data) as well as the digital divide (e.g., unequal access to the Internet). But these concerns have nothing to do with confidentiality. Note that the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 increased the fine for each criminal offence up to $5,000. In practice, however, no one has been prosecuted for not completing the census since 1970, according to a 2014 PolitiFact article.
No, it is illegal under many federal laws. The federal census law, for example, is very clear that the Census Bureau cannot disclose your individual census responses and that the government cannot use census data for a reason that is not purely statistical. Enforcement would not be a statistical objective. The easiest way to think about it is that your census responses can`t be used to harm you. The Constitution requires that a census be conducted every 10 years to enumerate all persons living in the United States, citizens and non-citizens.9 Foreign citizens are considered to be living in the United States if they live and sleep in a U.S. residence most of the time at the time of the census. The foreign resident population includes lawful permanent residents, international students in the United States on student visas, foreign diplomats and embassy staff, and other foreign citizens residing in the United States on Census Day. However, citizens of foreign countries visiting the United States (for example, on vacation or business trip) are not counted in the census. The U.S. Constitution requires that a census be conducted every 10 years to enumerate all people living in the United States, whether citizens or not.1 An accurate census of population is required by law and serves as the basis for equitable political representation.
It plays an important role in many areas of public life. The confidentiality of census records is protected by Title 13 of the United States Code. No data or tabulation can be created that could be used to identify a person. Individual documents may not be published for at least 72 years. If you refuse to disclose the information or intentionally provide inaccurate information, you may run into legal problems. According to United States Code, Title 13 (Census), Chapter 7 (Crimes and Penalties), Subchapter II, if you are over 18 years of age and refuse to complete the census in whole or in part, you can be fined up to $100. If you give wrong answers, you will be fined up to $500. If you make suggestions or information with the “intent to cause an inaccurate population census,” you will be liable to a fine of up to $1,000, imprisonment for up to one year, or both. Here is the official text: 11Raphael Corrado, 2020 Census Program Management Review, USA Census Bureau, April 8, 2015, www2.census.gov/census_2020/pmr_materials/2015-04-08/04%20PMR_2020%20Census%20Schedule_4-8-15_v1.0_Final.pdf. As preparations for the 2020 census begin, the threat of an additional citizenship issue has raised concerns about how information provided to the government could be used against vulnerable communities. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on April 23 about the Trump administration`s decision to apply for citizenship status, but in the meantime, the Brennan Center has scoured federal laws and guidelines to learn about the limits of the federal government`s ability to use the information in census responses.
Census data affects how $1.5 trillion in funds are spent, says Terri Ann Lowenthal, a census expert and consultant. 7U.S. Census Bureau, 2020 Census Detailed Operational Plan for: 18th Nonresponse Followup Operation (NRFU), www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/decennial/2020/program-management/planning-docs/NRFU-detailed-operational-plan_v20.pdf. Unlike a survey, which collects data for a sample of the population and uses that sample to infer the characteristics of the general population, a census aims to enumerate each person. By eliminating approximations of the number of translated forms to print and mail, the Internet response option facilitates the provision of census documents in multiple languages. The 2020 Census Internet self-response tool and questionnaire support will be available in 12 languages other than English (Arabic, Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese).10 Bilingual documents (English and Spanish) include counter-instruments, paper questionnaires, mail-outs and field counts. In addition, phrasebooks, language glossaries and language identifiers will be available in 59 languages other than English. “The importance of responding to the census and making sure your community has an accurate enumeration cannot be overstated,” she says. “We have to live with the results for the next 10 years.” It is also true that some people are trying to undermine the census and actively hope that some communities will be undercounted. They do not want certain communities to receive public funds or be politically represented. Not filling out the census would play into their hands. The Census Counts censuscounts.org coalition website is a good resource for most census questions, including country-specific information.
3U.S. Census Bureau, “2020 Census Program Management Review” (February 1, 2019) www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/decennial/2020/program-management/pmr-materials/02-01-2019/pmr-welcome-high-level-updates-2019-02-01.pdf?#. An enumerator is a specially trained employee of the Census Bureau who personally collects census information from individuals. The meters carry an ID with their name and photo, a watermark from the Ministry of Commerce and an expiration date. They also carry equipment such as a bag or laptop with the Census Bureau logo. The decennial census, which is conducted every 10 years, is a comprehensive census of the entire U.S. population. It just asks a few questions about each person and each household. The American Community Survey (ACS), which has been conducted continuously since the early 2000s, is an ongoing survey of only a subset of the population. The CEA asks dozens of questions on a variety of topics to gather information on the demographic, social, economic and housing characteristics of the population.
Although April 1, 2020 is officially Census Day, preparations for the Census of Population begin almost a decade in advance and the census takes place over several months. The 2020 Census will begin in January 2020 with the Census of Population in remote areas of Alaska – while the area is frozen and transitable.3 Notices and forms will arrive by mail beginning in March 2020.