April 1, 2020, is Census Day. Everyone from newborn to elder who is primarily residing in the United States is to be counted.
The first census in 1790 counted the population and provided information on population by county. Back then the census had different and fewer categories. Over the years, Congress authorized additional questions, enabling us to better understand the activities and needs of the nation’s inhabitants.
Fast forward to 2020 and you’ll find a census that is changing with the times. For the first time ever, it will also be available online. Households will receive a letter with a PIN number to complete the census for the household. Questions will be kept simple: name, relationship, age, sex, Hispanic origin, race, marital status, and whether the home is owned or rented. The online census and assistance will be provided in the following languages: English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, and Japanese. Language guides, in video and print, will be available in 59 non-English languages
We took notice of the census when we heard that it was going online. From our point of view, it’s just another pressing reason why we need to help everyone get access to the internet and gain basic digital skills. Our biggest concern is that the hard-to-count (HTC) communities are often the same people who lack access to the internet. While there will still be an opportunity for them to complete the census, either by paper or over the phone, it will save government resources if they don’t have to follow up multiple times. Also, not having a complete count means federal funding will not be distributed to the places that need it the most.
Many states, like California, have created Complete Count Committees, and the American Library Association has created the Libraries’ Guide to the 2020 Census. CTN hopes to play a role, however small, in helping more people get counted. We’re providing digital skills training every day in the communities that need it the most. We hope that our current and future efforts make it possible for more people to get counted.