What students need to know about the 2020 census

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A Census worker visits a home. The Census Bureau requires that census takers wear a mask while conducting their work. They will follow CDC and local public health guidelines when they visit. (United States Census Bureau)

The 2020 census is underway despite obstacles due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and some students might wonder how and where they should be counted.

Below is the information students need to know about the 2020 census as well as how the pandemic and technological advances have made the 2020 census one of the most unique ones in history.

Where should students be counted?

BYU encouraged students to go home to their parents’ houses to finish the semester in March when schools closed. A lot of students did end up going home and staying there for the summer. So how does this affect census counting? Where should those students be counted?

According to Coralys Ruiz Jiménez, Utah media specialist for the U.S. Census Bureau, even students who moved home because of the pandemic should be counted at their college address.

Ruiz Jiménez says one of the reasons an accurate census count is so important is it determines each state’s representation in the House of Representatives, where hundreds of billions of dollars in funding go each year, and how much funding cities, counties and states receive.

How has the pandemic affected the census?

Ruiz Jiménez said besides following safety protocols and offering a no-contact interview, the census is being run the same as previous years.

In a no-contact interview, a census taker stays at least six feet away from the resident and instead of coming inside the home will often stand on the porch or behind a window of the house.

Ruiz Jiménez doesn’t believe the pandemic will make the census count this year inaccurate. “We are confident that we are going to be able to count everybody,” she said.

The impact of technology

Ruiz Jiménez said despite the pandemic, the census will be positively impacted because of a new method of gathering responses: the internet.

In the 2010 census, methods used to gather responses for the census were limited to people mailing in the questionnaire or a census taker coming to their homes. This year, phone call responses and online responses will be allowed for the first time ever.

“It brings a great opportunity for young people to count themselves as well as other communities that were not aware of the census,” Ruiz Jiménez said.

Another change is that the census takers carry around devices with them, usually iPhones or iPads, so they can record people’s responses. This also helps with the no-contact interview so the person being interviewed doesn’t have to fill out a paper, but instead, the census taker can record all the answers on the device.

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