Once every 10 years, the U.S. Constitution requires a full count of the population to reapportion seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. That exercise, the U.S. Census, begins in a matter of weeks (mid-March 2020). Oregon is working hard to ensure the state’s residents are fully counted.
For the first time, the primary method of response to the census will be electronic. The U.S. Census Bureau is counting on most households to complete the census forms online.
Why is the census important?
Census results drive decisions that will affect economic investments in our state and our representation in Congress until 2031. Census results determine congressional representation and the number of our Electoral College votes and are used to draw boundaries for state and local election districts. In the last census, Oregon was just shy of gaining one seat in Congress – we have to get it right this time!
The federal government also uses census numbers to guide more than $1.5 trillion annually from 316 federal spending programs for education and health programs, highways, roads and bridges, water and sewage systems, and other projects vital to our health and well-being. Nonprofits and businesses use the same data to help determine where to build health care facilities, child care and senior centers, grocery stores and new factories.
In 2016, Oregon received $13.5 billion of these funds from just 55 of these 316 programs, or $3,200 per person, including:
- Nearly $507 million in bridge and highway maintenance and construction;
- $8.5 billion in health programs;
- Over $2 billion in education;
- $900 million for housing; and
- $512 million for rural assistance programs.
Based on these numbers, the state would lose up to $8 million over the decade for every 100 households missed, which would affect its ability to adequately support children, veterans, senior citizens and low-income families.
How it works?
Beginning in mid-March 2020, the U.S. Census Bureau will send each household a postcard inviting residents to go online (or call) and provide information about the number of people residing at that address. The questionnaire will ask for names, sex, age (including date of birth), and race/ethnicity of each person living at the residence, whether residents own or rent and for a phone number in case there is a need to follow up. Only one person should fill out the census for the entire household.
What is the timeline?
The process begins in mid-March 2020 and ends at the end of July. Those who do not respond will receive reminders in the mail until the beginning of May, when Census Bureau staff will begin going door to door to contact those who do not respond. Results must be delivered to the president by December 31, 2020.
Is it safe?
By federal law, the information provided is confidential. The U.S. Census Bureau uses the highest level of data security to safeguard the information it receives. In fact, census forms can be used ONLY to produce statistical information about the population, and penalties for violations are severe.
For more information, refer to the Fact sheet on Census and Confidentiality.