Census 2020

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How do I answer the race question if I don’t know my family’s ethnic origin? Who Should Be Counted and Where? What is the timeline for the Census 2020? What is the City of Raleigh’s role? How are college students counted? Additional Resources

The 2020 Census is Live! The self-response deadline has been changed to October 31. To avoid a census taker knocking on your door, make sure to fill out your form today. They will knock up to four times if you have not responded. You can fill your form out online right now on the Census Bureau's website.

How do I answer the race question if I don’t know my family’s ethnic origin?

Census Sample
  • Your answer to this question should be based on how you identify. Each person can decide how to answer.
  • Please note that you can mark more than one race for each person.
  • Please answer both the question about Hispanic origin and the question about race.
  • If you don't know the answer, please move on to the next question.
  • When answering on the online questionnaire, you are asked to select one or more boxes and then enter detailed origins in the fields below each checkbox. If you don't know this person's origin, you can leave this field blank. If you check a box, but leave the origin fields blank, a message will appear at the top of the screen and the blank field will be highlighted in red. If you do not know this person's origin, click next again to continue completing your response.

Who Should Be Counted and Where?

You should be counted where you are living and sleeping most of the time as of April 1, 2020. If you are responding for your home, count everyone who lives and sleeps there most of the time as of April 1, 2020. This includes young children, foster children, roommates, and any family members or friends who are living with you, even temporarily.

Please note that if someone is staying with you temporarily on April 1 due to the COVID-19 situation, they should be counted where they usually live. This includes college students, who should still be counted at school, even if they are home early because of the COVID-19 situation. If they live in student housing, the college will count them. If they live off campus, they should respond for the off-campus address and include any roommates or other people living there.

If someone is staying with you on April 1 who doesn’t have a usual home elsewhere, please include them in your response.

People in some living situations—including students, service members, and people in health care facilities—may have questions about how to respond or where they should count themselves. You may also have questions if you are moving, have multiple residences, or have no permanent address.

For more information, please visit Who to Count.

Raleigh Let's Get Counted!

Census 2020 Header

What is a census and why is it important?

Once a decade, America comes together to count every resident in the United States, creating national awareness of the importance of the census and its valuable statistics. The decennial census was first taken in 1790, as mandated by the Constitution. It counts our population and households, providing the basis for reapportioning congressional seats, redistricting, and distributing more than $675 billion in federal funds annually to support states, counties and communities’ vital programs — impacting housing, education, transportation, employment, health care, and public policy.

How does the Census 2020 benefit Raleigh?

Federal funds, grants, and support to states, counties, and communities are based on population totals and breakdowns by sex, age, race, and other factors. Your community benefits the most when the census counts everyone.

How can I respond to the Census 2020?

By April 2020, all households will receive an invitation in the mail to participate in the census. The process is quick and easy. You'll then have three options to respond:

  • Online (for the first time!)
  • By phone
  • By mail

If you are filling out the census for your household, you should count anyone who is living there as of April 1, 2020. This includes anyone who is living and sleeping there most of the time. Get details on how to count young children and how to handle special circumstances here.

What is the timeline for the Census 2020?

  • January 2020 — The 2020 Census count begins in remote Alaskan communities. Local census takers must get a head start while the frozen ground allows easier access to remote areas with unique accessibility challenges.
  • March 2020 — The public can begin responding to the 2020 Census online at 2020census.gov. Replying by mail or phone will also be an option.
  • For those replying by mail, the following Mailings will be sent to homes:
    • March 12-20, 2020 — Mailing 1 includes a letter with info to take the survey online (the majority of people will get this) or Letter + Paper Survey (20–25% of people based on demographic characteristics and Internet connectivity of a geographic area will receive this)
    • March 16-24, 2020 — Mailing 2 includes a reminder letter to non-respondents
    • March 26-April 3, 2020 — Mailing 3 includes a postcard to non-respondents
    • April 2020 — Mailing 4 includes a letter and questionnaire to non-respondents
    • April 2020 — Mailing 5 includes an “It’s not too late” postcard to non-respondents
  • April 2020 — Every 10 years, we observe Census Day on April 1.
  • June 2020 through July 2020 — Census takers go door to door to count people who have not responded to the 2020 Census. Census takers are Census Bureau employees and will provide proof that they are official government personnel.
  • September 30, 2020 — The last day you can fill out your census form online. The deadline was extended in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • April 31, 2021 — The Census Bureau reports to the President of the United States the population count and the apportionment of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives to each state. With the response deadline extended in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, this deadline has been extended from December 31, 2020.
  • 2021— Initial 2020 Census data are made available to the public on census.gov.
  • July 31, 2021 — Census Bureau sends redistricting counts to states. This information is used to redraw legislative districts based on population changes. This was extended from the previous deadline of March 31, 2021, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

What is the City of Raleigh’s role?

The City of Raleigh is a member of the Census 2020 Wake County Complete Count Committee. We will be participating in outreach and community engagement to spread the word about the upcoming Census 2020, answer questions and provide information. We work in collaboration with federal, state and local governments to ensure a complete count. The Census Bureau, which is funded by Congress, is ultimately responsible for conducting the Census 2020.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What will the census ask me?

  • How many people are living or staying at your home on April 1, 2020.
  • Whether the home is owned or rented.
  • About the sex of each person in the household.
  • About the age of each person in the household.
  • About the race of each person in a household.
  • About where a person in the household is of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin.
  • About the relationship of each person in the household to one central person.

Your answers will be kept confidential and are combined with information from other households to produce statistics that will never identify your household or any person in your household.

Am I required to respond to the Census 2020?

Yes, all people living in the United States, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands are required by law to be counted in the Census 2020. And just as you are required by law to participate, the Census Bureau is bound by law to protect your answers. Your responses are used only to produce statistics. The Census Bureau does not disclose any personal information.

Why do I have to fill out my census form? doesn't the government already know who lives where?

Nope! In addition to the legal requirement that every person living in the United States, Puerto Rico, American Samoa and other US territories, you are being asked to fill out this form because the census offers a snapshot in time of who lives where. Maybe you moved cities in the past year, or your mother in law decided she’d like to live with you, the government does not have a complete snapshot of who lives where – we need the census to give us that information.

That information is then used to allocate funding, determine congressional seats (which are allotted based on population in specific geographic areas) and provide funding for vital services. It’s like your taxes, if you don’t fill them out you won’t get a refund – if you don’t fill out your census form, federal funding that contributes to services you enjoy will not be received.

How do the postcards with my response code get mailed out?

The local updates of Census Address or "LUCA" as it is commonly known, is the only opportunity offered to tribal, state, and local governments to review and comment on the U.S. Census Bureau's residential address list for their jurisdiction prior to the 2020 Census. Two years prior to every census, the U.S. Census Bureau sends their most current database of local addresses and asks communities to review and verify the information so that they can subtract addresses that had been incorrectly included and add addresses to which the U.S. Census Bureau has no record.

To accomplish this, the City of Raleigh works with Wake County to check and verify existing records all new residential construction permits. This allows us to obtain an accurate count of addresses for both single-family and multi-family housing. If there is any doubt in the address data, local officials visit sites in person to confirm both the unit count and that the sites are residential. This ensures that the Census is able to reach out to every single residential address and each individual living unit.

Will you come to talk to my group or organization?

Yes! We are more than happy to speak to local groups about Census 2020. Just email us at sara.ellis@raleighnc.gov to set up a time.

How are college students counted?

Financial support does not factor into where a student is counted for the 2020 census.

College students living away from their parents’ or guardians’ home while attending college in the U.S. are counted at their on-campus or off-campus residence where they live and sleep most of the time. This also applies to college students who live at home during breaks or vacation only. Whichever residence the student lives and sleeps at most of the time should be counted as their residence.

If the college student is living at their parents’ or guardians’ home while attending college, they are counted at their parents’ or guardians’ home.

College students who are foreign citizens living in the U.S. while attending college are counted at the on-campus or off-campus U.S. residence where they live and sleep most of the time.

College students who are U.S. citizens living outside the U.S. while attending college are not counted in the census.

Additional Resources



Sara Ellis
Planner II

Lead Department:
Planning and Zoning
Service Categories:
Comprehensive Planning