2020 Census: Social work’s role in making people count

Social work has an ethical and civic responsibility to inform and encourage all people to participate. As trusted voices with access to hard to count populations, the profession can make sure every person -- regardless of citizenship status – COUNTS.

Covid 19 and the challenges to a complete 2020 Census

The U.S. Census, conducted every 10 years, is mandated in Article One of the U.S. Constitution to collect an accurate count of every person in the United States. The Covid-19 crisis will make getting a complete count –especially in vulnerable populations—even more challenging:

  • All in-person events, outreach and Census field operations are on hold
  • The Census phone lines are experiencing long wait times and the call back option has been suspended
  • There is mistrust in government and a concern around privacy and citizenship (there is no citizenship question)
  • People are worried about their jobs, their families and their safety, which will make field operations more challenging when they resume.

Get the facts: The Census is IMPORTANT, SAFE and EASY

Important. The census is critical to the well-being of the communities served by social work and determines:

  • Fair representation and political power at all levels of government. States, cities and communities that are undercounted will see their representation and political power diminish relative to other states and communities.
  • More than $800 billion annually in federal funding to states, localities and families. States, cities and communities who are undercounted will lose critical funding for safety net programs and investments in healthcare, jobs, schools, housing and much more.

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  • Census data is used to monitor and enforce broad range of civil rights, including voting rights, equal employment opportunities, public health, bilingual services for schools and more.
  • Census data is used by businesses, government and nonprofits to make strategic decisions about investments and programs.


SAFE and Secure. By law, the Census Bureau cannot share your answers with any other government agency nor the public. Census responses are only used for aggregate data. Census Bureau workers take a lifetime oath to maintain the confidentiality of census responses with penalties up to up to $250,000 and 5 years in prison.

Easy. There are four easy ways to participate: online, by phone (844-330-2020), by mail-in questionnaire.  Resources are available in 59 languages!  There is NO question about citizenship, and households do not need a letter from the census to respond.

Take action: What you can do to support a complete count

Social workers play a critical role in ensuring a complete count—especially with clients and communities at risk for being undercounted.

  1. Complete the census yourself.
  2. Know the facts so you can address concerns and misinformation.
  3. Raise awareness with clients, networks, students, faculty and personal circles.
  4. Reach out to clients and others with information and encouragement to respond.
  5. Request Census 2020 Hotline marketing postcards/buttons from the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
  6. Look up the response rates for your state/county/district.
  7. Learn more about the hard to count populations in your area with the census Hard to Count Mapping Application

Help for social workers and clients

These organizations are coordinating to provide information about the Census, answer questions, and when needed, follow up on challenges to participating in the count.

The AAJC hotline will be available in English, Mandarin (普通話), Cantonese (廣東話), Korean (한국어), Vietnamese (tiếng Việt), Tagalog, Urdu (اردو), Hindi (हिंदी), and Bengali/Bangla (বাংলা).

2020 Census Timeline

The self-response phase of the 2020 Census is underway and has been extended to August 14th. Field operations have been suspended and extended.  For updates, go to 2020census.gov