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Census 2020 - What You Need to Know

Updated: Mar 15

Governor Pritzker and his administration are committed to ensuring that Illinoisans get their fair share of federal resources and Congressional representation by encouraging the full participation of all Illinoisans in the 2020 Census.

The U.S. Constitution requires that every person living in the United States is counted every ten years for the purpose of ensuring fair representation and distribution of resources. The decennial census provides foundational information that will be used to make policy decisions for ten years. Given how much is at stake in Illinois, the Illinois General Assembly appropriated $29 million of General Revenue Funds for census outreach, education and mobilization.

On April 1, 2020, a census will be taken of all persons living in the United States. It is important that every Illinois resident be counted so our state population accurately reflects our needs. While many Illinoisans will answer the census questionnaire when it arrives, some demographics are consistently undercounted due to low participation. Among the groups historically undercounted in the census: Veterans; Minority communities; College students; Foreign born Illinois residents (documented and undocumented); Retirees spending summer in Illinois and winter in warmer climates; Farm families residing in rural counties; Persons living in large housing units or apartment complexes; Children under age 5; and the Homeless.

The importance of participating in the census cannot be understated. Responses to the census questionnaire are kept confidential by the U.S. Census Bureau. The information is not shared with other federal or state government agencies.

Here are 5 things you need to know about this year's census:

What to do when you get the mailer

There are three ways to respond — online, over the phone, and using a paper questionnaire. However, according to the census bureau, filling out the form online is the easiest and quickest way. The site, my2020census.gov, is accessible via computers, tablets, and smartphones.

For non-English speaking households, the census bureau provides over-the-phone language help with a list of more than a dozen numbers to call and get counted. See this link for the languages and phone numbers.

What questions will the census form ask

There are a total of nine questions, followed by extra pages asking for a few more details about each person living in the household. The questionnaire asks how many people live in the household as of April 1, 2020, and whether the household is owned or rented. For the person completing the form or “Person 1,” the questionnaire also asks for their age and sex, to identify their race, to state whether they are Hispanic or not, to write their country of origin and their phone number, in case there are clarifying questions from the census bureau.

After “Person 1” completes those questions, the same questions on race, age, sex, and Hispanic origin will be asked for all others living in the household — including infants and children. The census form also asks to specify each person’s relationship to the person completing the form, and whether they usually live elsewhere.

After much controversy and even a battle in the U.S. Supreme Court, a citizenship question, which the Trump administration was attempting to include on this year’s census, will not appear on the form. However, immigrant rights advocates say the damage has already been done.

What happens if you don't respond

If residents don’t fill out the form online or over the phone after they receive the initial mailer, the census bureau will mail out reminder letters and postcards in the coming weeks. After that, non-respondents will receive a paper questionnaire. Toward the end of April, a final reminder postcard will be sent to non-participants.

If residents still don’t participate in the census, the bureau will follow up by sending out enumerators, who will knock on doors and count households in person between May and July.

When will we know the results

As required by law, the U.S. Census Bureau will deliver apportionment counts to the president and Congress in December 2020. The census bureau will send redistricting counts to states by March 31, 2021. Public release of the data will begin in spring 2021.

Why it matters

The census determines political representation and affects federal funding of numerous programs. Advocates are concerned about an undercount of residents in Illinois. Because the state has lost population in recent years, some fear that Illinois could lose up to two seats in Congress. Also at stake are billions of dollars in federal funding for programs — everything from road construction to early childhood programs. As census data is used in countless ways by businesses, researchers, policymakers, and others, an undercount of the population also affects residents in indirect ways.

What is at Stake

An accurate count of Illinois' population is essential to ensure that the State receives the funding it needs to properly care for its residents and provide critical services and programs. In 2015, Illinois received $19,738,866,367, or approximately $1,535 per capita, in federal assistance for sixteen programs. The failure to count every Illinois resident would have devastating effects on Illinois' ability to meet the needs of its residents.  Even a one-percent undercount would result in the State losing $19,557,435 per year for a decade, resulting in a total loss of $195,574,350.

As important, the number of seats Illinois has in the U.S. House of Representatives for the next 10 years will be determined by the census count in 2020. Illinoisans deserve proportionate representation in the U.S. Congress, and a fair and accurate census count is how we ensure that happens.

Finally, state and local governments will use census data to redraw electoral maps in order to align with the principle "one person, one vote". Our own state's legislative maps will be re-drawn, and this will impact the size and make-up of each district in the Illinois General Assembly.

Stakeholder Newsletter

Sign up for the STAKEHOLDER NEWSLETTER to receive updates on the 2020 Census.

Other Census Efforts

The Complete Count Commission ("the Commission") was formed on August 25, 2017 from Public Act 100-0390 (The Illinois Complete Count Commission Act) to help educate communities, organizations and Illinois Residents about the importance of the upcoming 2020 census. Read the Complete Count Commission Interim Report to the Illinois General Assembly (pdf) to find recommended strategies.

Contact Information

  • Text "Question" or "Pregunta" to 987987 to get answers to your questions about the Census.

  • Text "Jobs" or "Empleo" to 987987 to get support in applying for federal Census positions.

  • Text "Pledge" or "Censo" to 987987 to commit to completing the Census.

  • For trainings, toolkits, and other resources, please visit: https://mapthecount.uic.edu/

  • For the U.S. Census Bureau, please visit: https://www.census.gov/

DHS Partners include: