Editor’s note: This story was written before field operations for the 2020 Census were temporarily paused due to COVID-19. A phased restart began May 4 in select areas. For details on counting military, see “How We Count: Military Members, Veterans, and Their Families.”
For cities and states across the country, active duty military, veterans and their families are an important part of community life — whether they live on base, in nearby towns or are deployed or stationed overseas.
But military families may not realize just how important they are when it comes to the 2020 Census. They should know that the 2020 Census will have an impact on their communities’ political representation and billions of dollars in funding annually for the next 10 years.
Most military households are responsible for responding to the 2020 Census on their own if they are stationed or living in the United States.
State, local and federal officials will use data from the 2020 Census to determine funding for infrastructure and critical public services such as hospitals, schools, emergency response services and road maintenance and construction. All are services that military members, veterans and their families use while they live in a community.
In mid-March, all households in the United States, including those of service members, veterans and their families living in the United States, will receive an invitation to respond to the 2020 Census. For the first time, people can respond to the census online, by phone or by mail.
The online option could be particularly popular with enlisted active duty military members, more than half of whom are younger than 25 years old, according to Department of Defense (DOD) data from 2017.
Most military households are responsible for responding to the 2020 Census on their own if they are stationed or living in the United States. People will be counted where they live and sleep most of the time as of April 1, 2020 (Census Day). Remember to count everyone who lives in your household, including young children, newborns and any relatives or others.
You will be counted in a military barracks in the United States if that’s where you’re staying on April 1, 2020. A military point of contact, sworn to protect your privacy, will distribute individual questionnaires, collect them when complete and return them to the Census Bureau. This is similar to how people living in other group quarter facilities such as college/university student housing respond as part of the Group Quarters data collection.
The same procedure applies if you are on a military vessel with a homeport in the United States.
You do not have to fill out a questionnaire if deployed or on a military vessel with a homeport outside the United States on Census Day. The DOD will provide the Census Bureau administrative data for you and family living with you overseas as of April 1.
The Census Bureau has clear guidance to help active duty military and veterans understand how to respond to the 2020 Census based on where they are on April 1, 2020.
If you are active duty and:
Military family members and veterans living in the United States will receive invitations to respond to the census at their homes.
Be sure to count everyone in your household, unless you are staying in certain types of group quarters such as college dorms or group homes. In those instances, a representative of the building may use administrative records to respond to the census for everyone staying in the building or may ask you to fill out an individual census questionnaire.
Responses to the 2020 Census are safe and secure. Federal law bars the Census Bureau from releasing personal census data to law enforcement, immigration agencies or other government agencies.
All Census Bureau field staff will be equipped with PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) and receive training to observe social distancing protocols.