Why Should You Complete the 2020 Census?

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2020 Census

What the 2020 Census means for the country, South Carolina and women

By Lauren Wilkie

A 2018 survey showed that fewer women than men intended to participate in the 2020 Census. Their reasons varied from lack of time to fear of getting someone in trouble to not realizing it is a requirement. Further results showed that minority women were even less likely to participate. Others disproportionately left out of the 2020 Census are women experiencing poverty and homelessness, survivors of domestic violence or assault, and young children.

This is troubling since census data is used to determine nearly $1 trillion in federal spending toward numerous services affecting women like grants for prevention of gender-based and family violence and nutritional programs for women and children. If women are not counted, the money cannot be matched correctly to where it’s needed.

It is vital that women leaders share in their community how critical it is fill out the census form, which only takes a few minutes. Many communities currently face challenges heightened by COVID-19, generational inequalities and systemic racism. We can ease the challenges women face over the next decade if we do our part now to count everyone in the 2020 Census.

Why a census?

The U.S. Census Bureau, a nonpartisan government agency, counts every person living in the U.S. once every 10 years. The 2010 census determined 55% of South Carolina’s state budget for the last 10 years. Each uncounted resident of South Carolina represents $2,900 in federal funds that will go to other states. Over 10 years, this means for every 1,000 people not counted, we lose about $3 million we could have received for economic development, schools, emergency infrastructure, roads, hospitals, disaster relief, affordable housing, health insurance, student loans, school lunches, and more. In short, the census affects and benefits everyone.

Census data assists federal, state, and local governments in planning and implementing programs, services and emergency responses to the community. The data also assists with designing facilities for the elderly, children and people with disabilities, daycare and school lunch programs. Information collected through the census makes forecasting future transportation needs for all segments of the population possible.

Local governments use census data for assessing public safety and emergency preparedness. Businesses use census data to decide where to build factories, offices and retail space, all of which create jobs. Real estate developers use the collected data to build new homes and revitalize old neighborhoods. The numbers help determine areas eligible for housing assistance and rehabilitation loans.

The results of the census go toward determining the number of seats representing each state in the U.S. House of Representatives. State officials use the results for redistricting and redrawing the boundaries of their congressional and state legislative districts.

Who needs to be counted in the 2020 Census?

The goal of the 2020 Census is to count everyone residing in the country on or before October 31, 2020 (the original date of April 1 was extended due to COVID-19). It counts individuals living in their primary place of residence. For children, this may not be with their parents, but with a guardian or in a group home. Special enumeration efforts are being made for group housing, including those experiencing homelessness, college students living away from home and prison inmates.

You are not required to be a U.S. citizen to be counted, just alive and living in the U.S. Your data is confidential, protected by federal law for over 70 years and only used to produce statistics. It may not be shared with immigration or law enforcement agencies, or used to to determine eligibility for government benefits.

Please complete your 2020 census at www.my2020census.gov, or by calling 844-330-2020, or filling out the paper form sent to you in the mail. U.S. Census takes visit the homes of residents  not completing the form through these avenues.


Lauren Wilkie, president of System Wide Solutions, is a key player for education and advocacy in Columbia, SC. She promotes the U.S. Census as a member of the City of Columbia Complete Count Committee for the Census, the League of Women Voters, and SC Women in Leadership.