The U.S. Census Bureau is currently conducting a test in preparation for the 2020 Census next year. Your household might be asked to participate in this test, or a participant may turn to you for more information about it. Here is what you should know about the 2019 Census Test:
1. This is just a test – the actual decennial census takes place in 2020.
2. 480,000 households are receiving a questionnaire – half will receive a survey that includes a question on citizenship status and half will receive a survey without that question.
3. This is to test the operational effects of response rates. For example, the results will help determine how many census takers will be needed to follow up with nonresponding households regardless of which version of the survey is used.
4. The purpose of this test is NOT to determine whether the citizenship question will be included in the 2020 census; the decision has been made to leave a citizenship question off of the census form.
5. The same strong confidentiality protections that apply to other census surveys also apply to this test.
Just how strong are those confidentiality protections?
- It is illegal for the Census Bureau to disclose census responses in any way that would personally identify a respondent;
- It is illegal for anyone to see census responses except for employees of the Census Bureau, who are sworn to secrecy under the threat of criminal punishment;
- It is illegal for the Census Bureau to disclose census responses to other government agencies;
- It is illegal for data collected for the census to be used for any nonstatistical purpose, such as immigration regulation or other law enforcement; and
- It is illegal for the Census Bureau or any other federal agency to use census data to the detriment of the person to whom the information pertains.
Taken from the Brennan Center for Justice, Federal Laws That Protect Census Confidentiality.
If you have questions, you can call the toll-free national census hotline run by NALEO, a nonprofit advocacy organization. The hotline is open Monday-Friday from 8:30AM-8:30PM ET and can take your call in English or Spanish. Call 877-EL-CENSO or 877-352-3676.
Download a PDF of this information here.
Updated July 15, 2019: On July 11, The Trump administration said it was done trying to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. The census forms are being printed without that question on them.