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2020 American Community Survey 1-Year Experimental Data Products Will Be Released on November 30th.

The Importance of the American Community Survey and the Decennial Census

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The Importance of the American Community Survey and the Decennial Census

Since the Census Bureau conducts over a hundred surveys every year, you may receive one or more invitations to respond to different surveys. During 2020, every home in America received an invitation by mail or a visit by a census taker to participate in the 2020 Census. Some households also received the American Community Survey (ACS) in 2020, in addition to the once-a-decade census.

Your responses to the American Community Survey and decennial census are critically important to your local community and the country. Local communities depend on information from the American Community Survey, as well as the decennial census, to decide where schools, highways, hospitals, and other important services are needed. The data collected through the American Community Survey and the 2020 Census help determine how to distribute more than $675 billion of federal spending each year.

American Community Survey

  • Conducted every month, every year
  • Sent to a sample of addresses (about 3.5 million) in the 50 states, District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico
  • Asks about topics not on the 2020 Census, such as education, employment, internet access, and transportation
  • Provides current information to communities every year.  It also provides local and national leaders with the information they need for programs, economic development, emergency management, and understanding local issues and conditions.

Decennial Census

  • Conducted every ten years

  • Counts every person living in the 50 states, District of Columbia, and the five U.S. territories

  • Asked a shorter set of questions, such as age, sex, race, Hispanic origin, and owner/renter status

  • Provides an official count of the population, which determines congressional representation.  Also provides critical data that lawmakers and many others use to provide daily services, products, and support for communities.

Learn more about the American Community Survey and 2020 Census by checking out some commonly asked questions below.

No, the American Community Survey is different from the 2020 Census.

The American Community Survey shows how we live—our education, housing, jobs, and more. The American Community Survey provides information about the social and economic needs of your community every year.

The census is conducted every ten years to provide an official count of the entire U.S. population to Congress.

Your responses to both the American Community Survey and 2020 Census will also help provide local and national leaders with the information they need for planning and programs.

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Yes, your response to the American Community Survey is required by law (Title 13, U.S. Code, Sections 141, 193, and 221). Title 13, as changed by Title 18, imposes a penalty for not responding. As a randomly selected representative of your community, you are the voice of your neighbors and peers. To create an accurate picture of your community, it is critical that you respond.

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Yes, if your household was selected for the American Community Survey, you must complete it in addition to the 2020 Census. Your responses to both are important and required by law (Title 13, U.S. Code).

Your responses to both the American Community Survey and 2020 Census will also help provide local and national leaders with the information they need for planning and programs.

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No, your answers to the 2020 Census cannot be used for the American Community Survey. The American Community Survey includes questions about topics not on the 2020 Census, such as education, employment, internet access, and transportation.

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Yes, the U.S. Census Bureau is required by law to protect your information. The Census Bureau is not permitted to publicly release your responses in a way that could identify you. We are conducting the American Community Survey under the authority of Title 13, United States Code, Sections 141 and 193. Federal law protects your privacy and keeps your answers confidential (Title 13, United States Code, Section 9). Per the Federal Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2015, your data are protected from cybersecurity risks through screening of the systems that transmit your data.

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By law, the Census Bureau can only use your responses to produce statistics. Your information will be used in combination with information from other households to produce data for your community. Similar data will be produced for communities across Puerto Rico and the United States. 

To learn more about American Community Survey statistics for your community, explore data.census.gov or visit the American Community Survey Data page for tools, tables, and additional useful information!

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Commonly asked questions about the American Community Survey and the 2020 Census are also available to download and view in PDF format.

The American Community Survey and the 2020 Census

La Encuesta sobre la Comunidad Estadounidense y el Censo del 2020

The Puerto Rico Community Survey and the 2020 Census

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