Census FAQs

Do I have to respond to the American Community Survey (ACS)?

Yes. You are legally obligated to answer all the questions, as accurately as you can. The relevant laws are Title 18 U.S.C Section 3571 and Section 3559, which amends Title 13 U.S.C. Section 221. Your answers are important. As part of a sample, you represent many other people. Find out how each question helps your community, your state, and the federal government in questions on the form and why we ask.

How can I be sure my information is really going to the Census Bureau and not some third party?

Our secure server uses a digital certificate (digital ID) issued by a Certificate Authority (CA) as proof of identity. The only way to be sure of a web site's authenticity is to view their digital ID. 

The digital ID will contain information such as:

  • The name of the organization that owns the web site (for example, "U.S. Census Bureau") 
  • The site's registered Internet name/address (for example, "respond.census.gov") 
  • The name of the Certification Authority under which the digital ID was issued (for example, "VeriSign Trust Network") 
  • The method for viewing a web site's Digital Certificate/ID varies depending on the web browser.

Please see your browser's "help" information for instructions on how to verify a web site's identity.

Someone came to my home to interview me for the ACS. Is this legitimate?

If someone has contacted you about the American Community Survey and you would like to verify that the visit or phone call you received was legitimate, you may call your Census Regional office. You can find contact information for your Census Regional office at http://www.census.gov/regions/.

In order to collect the required American Community Survey (ACS) data, we use a multi-part strategy, including Internet, mail, telephone calls, and personal visits.

  • First, we send a letter to let you know your address has been selected for the ACS.
  • Then most respondents receive instructions to complete the ACS online. If the survey is not completed, we send you a replacement questionnaire in about two weeks.
  • If we still do not receive a completed survey, we may attempt to call you from one of our call centers. You may also receive a telephone call if you completed the survey, but clarification is needed on the information you provided.
  • If we cannot reach you by phone, we may send a Census interviewer to your address to complete the interview in person.
  • Interviewers may visit you or attempt to call you after normal business hours when it is more likely you will be at home.

Why is the ACS information addressed to resident and not to me?

The American Community Survey (ACS) information is mailed to addresses, rather than to individuals, throughout the country. Not including individual names on the address label is one way that we protect the confidentiality of the households that are chosen to participate in our censuses and surveys.

Is it safe to provide my ACS information over the Internet? 

Yes.  American Community Survey information is encrypted at all times. Our secure servers use "HTTPS" Hypertext Transfer Protocol over Secure Socket Layer, to ensure the encrypted transmission of data between your browser and the U.S. Census Bureau.  This means that instead of sending readable text over the Internet, both your browser and our server encode (scramble) all data using a security key. In addition to data being encrypted during transmission, all data are encrypted for protection when stored on the Census Bureau servers.

Where can I find information about the way people use their time?

The American Time Use Survey (ATUS), conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, measures the amount of time people spend doing various activities such as paid work, childcare, volunteering, commuting, and socializing. The ATUS information can be found on the Bureau of Labor Statistics Web site ( http://www.bls.gov/tus/home.htm); a recent press release (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/atus.pdf) provides statistics on the many ways people spend their time.

Do I have to complete my questionnaire if I have completed the ACS online?

No. The Census Bureau receives your responses once you have submitted your completed American Community Survey online. Therefore, mailing back your questionnaire is not required and saves mailing costs.

I received an American Community Survey (ACS) questionnaire in the mail. Do I use a pencil or pen?

If you are completing a paper questionnaire, use a pen with blue or black ink, or a #2 pencil. For more information on how to respond or get help with your form, visit the About the Survey section of the ACS Web page. Some people may also be able to complete the survey online. To find out if you are eligible, call 1-800-354-7271. Thank you for responding.

Can I complete the ACS online?

In most instances, yes. If you received a letter or postcard inviting you to complete the American Community Survey online, you will need to visit https://respond.census.gov/acs and enter your ten digit user ID from the letter or informational card you received in the mail. If you did not receive a mailing inviting you to respond online, this option is not yet available for your area.

I completed the ACS. Why did I receive an additional reminder?

Due to the large volume of American Community Survey (ACS) forms that we process, there may have been a delay between the time you completed the ACS and the time it was logged in. Alternatively, some survey materials may travel more quickly through the postal system. If you wish to double-check that we have received your responses, please call our Telephone Questionnaire Assistance line toll-free at 1-800-354-7271.

I cannot use the Internet to complete the survey. Is there another way to complete the survey?

If you cannot complete the survey online, there is no need to contact us. The Census Bureau will send you a paper questionnaire in about two weeks.

I lost my American Community Survey / Puerto Rico Community Survey reply envelope. How do I return the form?

If you are returning a completed paper questionnaire, please send it to: Director U.S. Census Bureau P.O. Box 5240 Jeffersonville, IN 47199-5240 Some people may also be able to complete the survey online. To find out if you are eligible, call 1-800-354-7271. Thank you for responding.

What data can I get for ZIP Code Tabulation Areas?

Population and housing data for Zip Code Tabulation Areas (ZCTAs) comes from a variety of Census Bureau sources; most may be found using the American Fact Finder. American Community Survey (ACS): Produces a wide range of estimates on topics such as; income, poverty, educational attainment, disability, marital status, and much more. 2010 Census: Provides ZCTA-level information on a limited range of demographic variables such as race, sex, age, housing tenure (that is, rent or own), and ethnicity (Hispanic/Latino origin). 2000 Census: Provides statistics with detailed characteristics at the ZCTA-level including; race, age, sex, tenure, income, educational attainment, disability, marital status, etc. 1990 Census: You can download ZCTA data from the FTP site (Summary Tape File 3B), or order a CD-ROM containing the data. (Not available through American FactFinder.)

Can the U.S. Census Bureau help me find information about my family's history?

Although censuses are a source of genealogical information, the Census Bureau does not provide these data nor can we assist in locating missing persons or provide recent information on individuals. In keeping with the Census Bureau's commitment to confidentiality, information collected in the Decennial Census of Population and Housing on individuals does not become available to the public until after a period of 72 years. Geneaology Tips will help amateur genealogists use census records to fill out their family tree. You can access personal census records from the 1930 census and earlier through the U.S. National Archvies and Records Administration (http://www.archives.gov/index.html) . Information on all aspects of how to do a genealogical search and National Archives locations are available. The 1940 census records will be released to the public on April 2, 2012.

See all 2020 Census FAQs here.