Making sense of the census

CAMBRIDGE — What if you knew an easy way, that only took 10 minutes, for you, as an individual, to bring more money to your community, to improve schools and infrastructure, to foster economic development and create jobs, and to support vital public services?

Victoria Jackson-Stanley knows how. As Mayor of Cambridge, and as the Sorority Social Action Delta Sigma Theta chairperson, she admonishes everyone to “fill out your Census form!” Her goal is to increase 2020 Dorchester County responses by 10 percent, by spreading the word and getting everyone to participate. In the last census, in 2010, Dorchester County Dorchester County’s response rate was only 70 percent.

The numbers counted in the Census determine your representation in Congress, and affect local legislative districts and funding levels for programs and services, such as school construction, transportation projects, public health, public safety, and emergency planning. “It’s money pumped into your community,” Mayor Jackson-Stanly said.

The United States government mandates this national count of all people living in each state every 10 years. The census started in 1790 as part of our Constitution, Article 1, Section 2. The mayor said African-Americans were not even counted in the census until 1850, 60 years after it began. She especially entreats people of color to participate, in calling the census “an opportunity to continue the historic process of being counted in our country.”

Who gets counted?
All persons living in the country as of April 1 are counted: renters as well as homeowners, “couch surfers” who may be staying at your home temporarily, and all children. Historically, children have been undercounted.

Non-US citizens are counted, even if undocumented. If you’re pregnant and give birth by April 1, count the baby. College students should be counted where they are living most of the time, at their college address, either on-campus or off-campus, unless they live at home while attending college.

Which information?
The Census asks only for name, age, sex, and national origin of everyone in the household. One phone number per household is needed, in case there are questions.

The Census2020 website says, “There is no citizenship question on the 2020 Census.” Beware of scams that pretend to be Census-related. The Census does not ask for social security numbers, bank or credit card numbers, or any other financial or identity information.

For those who worry that the information will somehow be used against them by the government, the Census2020 website says, “When you respond to the census, your answers are kept anonymous. They are used only to produce statistics. The U.S. Census Bureau is bound by law to protect your answers and keep them strictly confidential. The law ensures that your private information is never published and that your answers cannot be used against you by any government agency or court.”

How do I do it?
You can complete it online, by phone, or by mail. You should have received a mailed invitation during the past couple of weeks. It does not contain the form itself, but includes a code that allows you to fill it out online, at

If you aren’t able to complete it online, you can call toll-free 844-330-2020 to answer the questions by phone. If you haven’t submitted it by April 1, you’ll receive a paper copy of the form to complete and mail in.

Finally, if you haven’t returned it by mid-June, someone may come “knocking at your door.”
Mayor Jackson-Stanley said, “It’s everyone’s business to spread the word. Talk about it. Get everybody counted. It’s important.”

Get your questions answered at or 844-330-2020. For local resources, availability in other languages or other accessibility help, call 410-767-4500 or go to