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2020: A Year in Review

December 31, 2020
Written by: Dr. Steven Dillingham, Director

The year 2020 has tested our patience, faith and strength. It’s been a year filled with many challenges. But despite all the extraordinary circumstances happening around the world, we have succeeded through the tenacity and creativity of the women and men who work at this extraordinary agency.  

Simply maintaining operations could be considered an accomplishment during these times as we navigated unfamiliar waters. In light of the necessary actions to protect the health and safety of our families and communities, some may have expected us to miss a step.

We did not. We not only maintained our operations, but we adapted and advanced our mission. Working in new circumstances for many, and facing unforeseen obstacles, we displayed the agility necessary for any organization to thrive in the face of change.

This spectacular work was not limited to the once-a-decade census for which the U.S. Census Bureau is best known, but also to our other critical surveys and censuses. Every way we did business had to adapt to keep our data products flowing, and to create the new ones, all of which policymakers across government, the private sector, and the public at large rely on to make the decisions that affect all our lives.

I want to thank each member of the Census Bureau community for the work done to help support our mission. This includes our amazing headquarters workforce in Suitland, Md., and at our six regional offices and regional census centers; our tireless workforce at our processing  centers in Jeffersonville, Ind., and Phoenix, Ariz.; our committed permanent field representative workforce; and the more than 500,000 individuals who at one point joined our temporary workforce to help get an accurate 2020 Census count.

We could fill pages with our accomplishments, but I would like to highlight some of significant importance as we review the year.

  • Conducting the 2020 Census. Even amid a global pandemic, the Census Bureau was able to fully conduct the 2020 Census count, with a completion rate of 99.98% of addresses, thanks to the Internet Self-Response tool that never went down in over nine months. This was possible thanks to all Census Bureau employees, some who have dedicated years to the 2020 Census, and those who continued making in-person visits during the pandemic. This was also thanks to the hugely successful deployment of new technologies and tools that dramatically increased the productivity of our census takers in the field and those at headquarters.
  • Developing two new pulse surveys designed to help us understand the impacts of COVID-19 on individuals and small businesses in America. The innovative Household Pulse Survey and Small Business Pulse Survey provide data on ways the pandemic has affected households and small businesses over time. Launching two new surveys in the middle of the pandemic was an amazing accomplishment, collaborating with experts across government to put together the surveys and get critical information to decision-makers. The Household Pulse Survey captures information from individuals on employment status, consumer spending, food security, housing, education disruptions, and dimensions of health. The Small Business Pulse Survey captures information from businesses with one to 499 employees on location closings, changes in employment, disruptions in the supply chain, the use of federal assistance programs, and expectations concerning future operations.
  • Creating a new interactive data hub at When information is needed to help plan for and recover from disasters, there’s no better source than the Census Bureau. Building on our successful work helping communities get information for recovery from severe weather events, the Census Bureau launched in April to give communities a one-stop shop for helpful information from the Census Bureau. This data hub was recognized by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as a COVID-19 Hub Site of the Week. The new data hub is part of the resource page at that provides access to data useful to federal agencies, businesses and communities in making decisions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Developing new model-based Community Resilience Estimates (CRE). Leaders also need simple, clear information on the capacity of individuals and households in their community to absorb, endure and recover from the health, social and economic impacts of a disaster, such as a hurricane or pandemic. The CRE can be used to identify more vulnerable populations to better address needs during or after natural disasters.
  • Updating the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey to include new questions related to COVID-19. The survey collects data on health care delivery in ambulatory settings. These questions ask doctors’ offices and community health centers about their experiences regarding shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), the ability to test patients for COVID-19, and whether the office needed to turn away or refer patients diagnosed with COVID-19 elsewhere.  
  • Continuing the release of products from the 2017 Economic Census. All geographic content has been published and all data releases are set to be released by December 2021. And, planning for the 2022 Economic Census has begun, starting with a review of the content collected.
  • Planning for the upcoming 2022 Census of Governments. The first component of the Census of Governments will be mailed in the first quarter of 2021.

These extraordinary accomplishments wouldn’t be possible without the outstanding, diligent and ongoing determination of all the Census Bureau staff working across our vast country as well as at headquarters. While we’ve been apart, we’ve grown — together. I am in awe of your service and contributions to the Census Bureau, to our country, and to each other. Thank you for all your hard work this year and every year. With our long-running focus on research and innovation, we will continue to provide quality data about America’s people, places and economy. And all thanks to you. 


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