Frequently Asked Questions about Our Surveys

1. Why was my household or business selected?

The U.S. Census Bureau randomly selected your household or business through a process of scientific sampling.  We collect data from a sample of the population to produce estimates for the entire population.  This ensures that a small sample represents the entire group covered by the survey.

2. Are my answers safe and secure?

We collect data for statistical purposes only.  We combine your responses with information from other households or businesses to produce statistics, which never identify your household or business.  Your information is CONFIDENTIAL.  We never identify you individually. Learn more about how we protect your information.

3. How are surveys done?

We conduct household surveys by mail, by phone, and in person, however, you can complete some surveys online. We conduct business surveys only by mail and online.  Select surveys can be completed using the internet, via online submission or by downloading a census approved survey software.

household survey

We conduct household surveys: 

  • online/internet
  • by mail
  • by phone or
  • in-person
business survey

We conduct business surveys only:

  • online/internet
  • by mail

4. How will you contact me?

For households, once we select your household for a survey or census, we send you an official letter from the U.S. Census Bureau director. We address the letter to “resident”.

  • Depending on the survey, there are four options for responding: online, by completing and mailing back the form, in a phone interview, or through an in-person interview with a trained Field Representative at your home. We will provide you with specific instructions about how to respond to your survey.
  • If we mailed you a form, and we do not receive a completed survey from you, we may follow up with a phone call or personal visit from one of our trained interviewers. Sometimes, a Census Bureau Field Representative will contact you directly and provide information about the survey at that time.  

For businesses, once we select your business for a survey or census, we will mail an official letter signed by a U.S. Census Bureau associate director, or a form, to your business.

  • We conduct business surveys only online or by mail.  Your letter or form will include instructions on how to respond.  If online reporting is available, we will provide a User ID and password for you, or your CPA, to log onto our electronic reporting website.
  • Single location businesses can fill out the form entirely online. Multi-location businesses have to download the Surveyor software to complete and submit their data. Businesses that previously did not report electronically, and did not request to do so at this time, receive a paper questionnaire.
  • If we do not receive a complete response, we will follow up.

5. Is this a real survey?

To verify that a household survey is legitimate, please refer to our list of Household Surveys first.  If you still have questions or concerns contact the Regional Office for your state and ask, “Am I in a survey?”

To verify that a business survey is legitimate,  please refer to our Business Help Site first.  If you still have questions or concerns contact the National Processing Center and ask, "Am I in a survey?"

6. Is the caller or visitor a U.S. Census Bureau employee?

To verify that a visitor to your household is legitimate, contact the Regional Office for your state.  Our field staff will always show a valid Census Bureau ID and a copy of the letter we sent you.

To verify that a caller to your household or business is legitimate, call or e-mail the National Processing Center.

7. Do I have to participate in the survey?

The Census Bureau will always tell you whether your participation is mandatory or voluntary, and we encourage you to answer all questions asked.  To learn more about which surveys require mandatory participation, please find your survey - List of All Surveys.

8. Why does the U.S. Census Bureau do surveys?

The Census Bureau's mission is to serve as the leading source of quality data about the nation's people and economy.

9. How does the U.S. Census Bureau help me identify fraudulent activity and scams?

We will never ask for:

  • your full social security number
  • money or donations
  • anything on behalf of a political party
  • your full bank or credit card account numbers
  • your mother's maiden name

Learn more about “phishing” and other scams.

10. When is my survey due?

The letter or form will contain a specific date, or ask you to respond within a certain number of days of receipt.  For more information on when your specific survey is due, please find your survey or contact your Regional Office. Note: For some surveys, you may request more time.