2020 Census: Barriers to responding

In addition to an overview of factors that motivate people to respond or act as barriers to response, the resources on this page address three of the most commonly-raised issues of concern: the proposed citizenship question, the introduction of an online response option, and the privacy and security of information provided by respondents.

Why do people participate (or not)?

The Census Bureau has just released two new reports summarizing the results of a national survey and focus groups that sought to learn who intends to respond to the Census, what people know about it, and what would make them more likely or less likely to respond. The summary and full reports are linked below, and action toolkits that incorporate what we know about communicating effectively about the Census are here.

The proposed citizenship question

Although the proposed citizenship question was not allowed to be included in the 2020 Census, many communities worried about the effect on response rates of the proposed addition of a question about citizenship, and that anxiety is likely to continue to have an impact. Here are resources that give context for the proposed addition and reasons why the addition was of concern, as well as the local policy position on the question.

The new online response option

The 2020 Census marks the first time where it’s possible to respond online to the Decennial Census. every household will have the option to respond by mail or phone. The U.S. Postal Service and Census workers are still critical links to households. Although online is not the only way to respond, the introduction of the online option as the preferred way of responding means that targeted outreach and supports are needed for people who do not have the benefit of full digital inclusion. (Our Hard to Count Maps show which neighborhoods have the lowest proportion of households with a broadband subscription.) The following resources outline the various response options available – online, by mail, by phone, and in person – and what the online response option means for Census 2020 response rates and targeted outreach.

About Census response privacy and security

Although the Census Bureau has extensive protections in place to safeguard the information provided when responding to the Census, questions about privacy and confidentiality are common. The following resources outline what the Census Bureau does to protect data and how Census response data can and cannot be used.

More 2020 Census information

last updated 3/4/2019