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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for Survey Participants

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This page outlines and answers frequently asked questions regarding Census Bureau surveys including what respondents can expect, how to verify or complete a survey, and protections for participant information.

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After notifying you in advance by mail about a survey, the Census Bureau options by which you can participate. Surveys may generally be completed online, by mail, in-person, over the phone, or some combination of these methods. The options are predetermined according to the specific survey. Some surveys are completed at one time, while others involve multiple interviews. The Census Bureau may follow-up with you regarding the information you provided.

Please note that the Census Bureau will never ask for your full social security number, passwords, or bank account number.

For information on a specific survey, please visit the survey’s site or contact the Census Bureau Customer Service Center to speak with a representative who can assist you.

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The Census Bureau oversees surveys that collect information from households, businesses, schools, hospitals, and more. To verify that a Census Bureau survey is legitimate and learn more about its purpose, search the Census Bureau’s list of surveys by name.

The name of the Census Bureau survey is provided in one or more of the following ways:

  • In a mailing from the Census Bureau.
  • By a caller from the Census Bureau who has verified your address and information.
  • By a Census Bureau field representative who provided you with a letter or brochure.

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The U.S. Census Bureau randomly selected your household or business through a process of scientific sampling. We collect information from a smaller group to produce estimates for the entire population.  This process ensures that only a small percentage of people are asked to participate, while still producing quality data for the country. Most survey randomly select participants based on their address. A few surveys are telephone number- or person-based.

Your responses to a survey represent your household or business and others like yours and cannot be replaced by simply selecting a different household or business. The answers you provide are used to create statistics about the people, places, and economy of the United States. All the information you provide to the Census Bureau is strictly confidential and protected and collected solely for statistical purposes.

To read more about a particular survey's purpose and significance, you can search the Census Bureau's list of surveys.

Maintaining the privacy of your survey answers is important to us. All information that we collect from our participants is strictly confidential and used only for statistical purposes. If you have any questions about responding to one of our surveys, please visit the "Help for Survey Participants" page.

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Your answers help produce accurate, reliable statistics on employment, infrastructure, education, economic opportunities, and other important characteristics of your community. This information helps policymakers, local officials, companies, and organizations to understand and assess the resources and needs of people, places, and businesses across the country. None of this would be possible without your participation.

By completing a survey, you represent not only yourself but other households or businesses like yours in the nation. All selected households and businesses are chosen according to scientific statistical methods. Your address or business cannot be substituted with another.  

To read more about a particular survey's purpose and significance, you can search the Census Bureau's list of surveys.

Maintaining the privacy of your survey answers is important to us. All information that we collect from our participants is strictly confidential and used only for statistical purposes. If you have any questions about responding to one of our surveys, please visit the "Help for Survey Participants" page.

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The Census of Population and Housing, or Decennial Census, is the most well-known operation of the Census Bureau and is used to determine the number of persons living in the United States. These counts are used to determine how many representatives each state has in Congress.

However, the Census Bureau also manages many surveys that provide valuable information for the country on a variety of subjects, including education, health care, crime, housing, employment, and government spending.

The American Community Survey (ACS) is the largest survey conducted by the Census Bureau and has  taken place every year since 2005. The questions in this survey were originally asked in the census long form sent to 1 out of every 6 households during the decennial census.

The Economic Census occurs every five years and collects extensive statistics of U.S. businesses and their economic impact. The Census Bureau conducts many other surveys that provide information about U.S. businesses and the economy, including the Services Annual Survey (SAS), Annual Retail Trade Survey (ARTS), and Annual Survey of Manufactures (ASM).

To find more information about other surveys we conduct, please visit the Census Bureau’s list of surveys or contact the Census Bureau Contact Center to speak with a representative who can assist you.

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*For more information on the legal authority for the 2020 Census, visit the official webpage.

The American Community Survey is part of the decennial census, and replaces the census "long form" that previously was sent to a percentage of households once every 10 years. The laws that provide the authority for conducting the ACS are Title 18 U.S.C. Section 3571 and Section 3559, which amends Title 13 U.S.C. Section 221.

The Economic Census and other business surveys are authorized under Title 13. Title 13, U.S.C., Section 131, directs the Census Bureau to conduct the economic census at 5-year intervals covering years ending in 2 and 7. Title 13, U.S.C., Section 182, authorizes the Census Bureau to conduct monthly, quarterly, and annual surveys to furnish more timely reports on subjects covered by the economic census.

The Census Bureau manages many surveys that study a variety of different entities including households, businesses, schools, hospitals, and more. To learn more about the legal authority for a particular survey, you can search the Census Bureau’s list of surveys.

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If you receive a survey or a letter in the mail from the Census Bureau, the envelope contains certain information that may help you verify its legitimacy. For example:

  • U.S. Department of Commerce in the return address. This is the Census Bureau’s parent agency.
  • Jeffersonville, Indiana in the return address. Most census- and survey-related material gets mailed from, and returned to, our National Processing Center in Jeffersonville.

You may also receive a reminder letter from one of our Regional Offices or the Census Bureau headquarters in the Washington, D.C. area.

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The Census Bureau uses two contact centers, one in Jeffersonville, Indiana and the other in Tucson, Arizona. The caller will identify themselves as a Census Bureau representative. If they are unable to reach you, they may leave a message with a case ID associated with your survey.

Most Census Bureau calls asking you to participate in a survey originate from one of the following numbers:

  • (812) 218-3144, Jeffersonville Contact Center
  • (520) 798-4152, Tucson Contact Center

If you receive a call from the Census Bureau and you would like to independently verify that the number is from the Census Bureau, you can call one of the following numbers:

  • 1-800-523-3205   Jeffersonville, IN
  • 1-800-642-0469   Tucson, AZ
  • 1-800-923-8282   Customer service center

To verify that a person is a Census Bureau employee, you can enter their name in the Census Bureau Staff Search, a database that lists name and contact information for all employees.

We do not publish the phone numbers of our field representatives on our staff search website. However, the staff search function on our website will identify our field representatives by name and email address, if you wish to verify that they work for the Census Bureau.

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If you are visited by someone from the U.S. Census Bureau, here are some ways to verify the individual is a Census Bureau employee:

  • The field representative must present an ID badge which contains:
    • Their name,
    • their photograph,
    • a Department of Commerce watermark, and
    • an expiration date.
  • A field representative will be carrying an official bag with the Census Bureau logo or a laptop for conducting the survey.
  • The field representative will provide you with a letter from the Census Bureau on official letterhead stating why they are visiting your residence.
  • Upon request, the field representative will provide you with their supervisor’s contact information and/or the phone number for your Census Bureau Regional Office. The Regional Office supervises the activities of all field representatives in your area.

If you wish to independently confirm that the person at your door is a Census Bureau employee, you can enter their name in the Census Bureau’s staff search website or contact the Regional Office for your state.

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The Census Bureau oversees many surveys that are generally completed in-person, by mail, online, or by telephone. For more information about completing a particular survey, you can search the Census Bureau’s list of surveys and read more about what your options are for responding.

The name of the Census Bureau survey is provided in one or more of the following ways:

  • In a mailing from the Census Bureau.
  • By a caller from the Census Bureau who has verified your address and information.
  • By a Census Bureau field representative who provided you with a letter or brochure.

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The Census Bureau may follow up with you about your participation in a survey. Follow-up can occur in-person, via mail, or by telephone. Sometimes we do follow-up when we have incomplete responses to a survey, or if we have no response, at all. We also make brief phone calls on occasion for quality assurance purposes.

Some surveys involve multiple interviews in order to learn how characteristics such as income, employment, housing, or education change over time. The Current Population Survey and National Crime Victimization Survey are examples of surveys that include multiple interviews over a period of time. For information on a specific survey, please visit the list of surveys or contact the Census Bureau Contact Center to speak with a representative who can assist you.

The Census Bureau takes measures to reduce the number of surveys you may be selected to participate in, but it is still possible that you could be selected for more than one. . For information on a specific surveys, please visit the list of surveys or contact the Census Bureau Contact Center to speak with a representative who can assist you.

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All information that you provide in a Census Bureau survey is used exclusively to create accurate, relevant statistics about the nation’s people, places, and economy. These statistics help inform elected officials about communities and businesses across the United States.

Individual businesses or persons cannot be identified in statistics or reports published by the Census Bureau. For more information about the Census Bureau’s data privacy protections, please visit our Policy Office webpage.

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Any and all information that you provide in answer to a Census Bureau survey is strictly confidential. We do not share your information with anyone, including other federal agencies, and do not publish any information about individual households or businesses. Rather, the data we collect is only used to create statistics. The Census Bureau has legal, procedural, technological, and statistical safeguards to ensure your information will not be disclosed to anyone.

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