What is the census?

The decennial Census aims to count every person residing in the United States each decade. It affects funding decisions at every level of government, and targets more than $800 billion annually in federal funding that goes to states, localities, and families. Census data guides community decision-making affecting schools, road and highway planning, health care services, business investment, housing and much more.

Local census takers, or enumerators, will start counting Alaskans in villages and rural Alaska communities in January 2020. Residents of Anchorage, Fairbanks and other large Alaska cities will respond to the 2020 Census online, by phone, or mail in mid-March. Participation in the census is required by law.

As the country’s largest and least densely populated state, Alaska has one of the hardest populations to count. But an accurate count is vital; an undercount of Alaskans means our state fails to receive its fair share of federal resources.

Timeline for the 2020 Census in Alaska:

  • Summer 2019 – Census Recruitment for part-time jobs in rural Alaska
  • August 2019 – In-field Address Canvassing and Group Quarters operation begins
  • January 2020 – Enumeration of Remote Alaska begins in Toksook Bay, AK
  • February – March 2020 – Interior and Eastern Alaskan counted in person
  • March – April 2020 – North Slope and Aleutians counted in person
  • March 2020 – Online Self-Response Opens
  • April 1, 2020 – 2020 Census Day
  • April 2020 – Non-response follow-up begins for households that did not submit a Census form
  • July 2020 – Self-Response Deadline
  • December 31, 2020 – Census Bureau delivers count to President of the United States

Why should Alaskans complete the census?

When Alaskans go uncounted, we all lose out. Responding to the census helps communities get the funding they need for local public services and helps businesses make data-driven decisions that grow the economy.

The census determines the resources that go to Alaska to help build roads and infrastructure, support hospitals, and deliver public services to children, veterans, seniors and families.

During this once-in-a-decade effort to count the U.S. population, the United States Census Bureau calculates a participation rate for each area, or the percentage of questionnaires mailed back by households that received them. In 2010, Alaska had the lowest participation rate in the nation at 64 percent. Thinking about it another way, that means over one-third of Alaskans DID NOT respond upon the Census Bureau’s first invitation to participate.

A similar undercount of our state in 2020 means Alaska will not receive its full share of federal funding for the following 10 years. In the face of increasing state and local budget constraints, we cannot afford an undercount in 2020.

Will Alaskans’ responses to the census remain confidential?

There are strong, long-standing legal protections in place that prohibit the Census Bureau or any other part of the federal government from using census data against the people who supply it.

Your individual responses to the 2020 Census are confidential and can only be used to produce statistics. This includes responses on census questionnaires, names, addresses, and residential locations.

By law, the U.S. Census Bureau cannot share an individual’s information with immigration enforcement agencies, law enforcement agencies, or allow it to be used to determine your eligibility for government benefits. This means that a landlord, employer, or business will never have access to your responses to the census.

It is a felony for Census Bureau employees to publish or distribute individual responses or any information that would identify an individual, business, or organization. Employees who view individual census responses are sworn to protect the confidentiality of those data for life – anyone who wrongfully discloses census data is subject to a fine of up to $250,000 and a prison sentence of up to five years.

Who uses census data?

Census data is used as the basis for distributing more than $800 billion in federal funds annually to states, boroughs, and communities to support resources such as schools, hospitals, and fire departments. Census data inform business decisions, policy, community initiatives, and consumer advocacy.

An accurate count is critical for Alaskan businesses and nonprofits to invest strategically in communities across our state. Census data allows these entities to understand local markets and their constituencies and to plan accordingly for the future.

  • Businesses use the census to decide where to build offices, facilities, and stores, which in turn create jobs.
  • Local governments use the census for public safety planning, emergency preparedness, and budgeting for schools, roads and healthcare.
  • Transportation planners receive funding based on census data, which goes to planning, constructing, and preserving safe public roads, highways and bridges, and replacing old infrastructure.
  • Hospitals receive financial assistance to provide care to uninsured, low-income children (CHIP), pregnant women, and seniors who meet income requirements, Alaskans age 65 or over, and those with certain disabilities.
  • Schools and educational institutions receive assistance based on census data, including Title I aid, special education grants, and the National School Lunch Program.
  • Nonprofit organizations rely on census data to identify community needs, request and fund programs, monitor trends and assess program effectiveness.

How does it work in Alaska?

Beginning in January 2020, the Census Bureau will begin inviting Alaskans to respond to the census. Alaskans will be asked to provide the following information:

  • Number of people residing at their address.
  • Name, gender, age (including date of birth), and race/ethnicity of each person living at that residence.
  • If residents own or rent.
  • A phone number in case there is a need to follow up on a resident’s responses for any reason.

Rural areas without city-style addresses, including remote villages, will not be mailed a census form. Instead, the Census Bureau will use alternative enumeration practices.

Find your community on this map to see how the Census Bureau will invite you to participate.

There are several Types of Enumeration Areas (TEA), or tracts, in Alaska:

  • Update Leave Tracts (PO Boxes):  In this operation, a census taker visits your home and leaves a paper survey and information on how to respond online or by phone. You can mail the survey in or follow the instructions to fill out the survey online or by phone.
  • Remote Alaska Enumeration and Update Enumerate Tracts:In these operations, a census taker will come to your door. The census encourages you to fill out the survey with that enumerator. Remote Alaska enumeration begins in January. Filling out the survey online or over the phone won’t be an option until March.
  • Self-Response: The census Bureau will reach many households by mail, including those in Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau. These households will be invited to respond to the census online or by phone.

For more information, download this flyer about how Alaskans will be counted.