Challenges Getting a Complete Count

The Challenges Related to the Census:
How to Count Everyone Once, Only Once, and in the Right Place


1. Reaching Hard to Count Communities


Mapping Hard to Count (HTC) Communities. Those in red are areas that contained varying degrees of uncounted communities in the 2010 Census.

The first person counted for the 2020 Census was an elder in Toksook Bay in remote Alaska. Read about the adventure here

2. Does the Risk of not Participating Outweigh the Risk of Participating?

There are many factors that may lead to an undercount in the Census:

  • Many people face barriers to participation, such as people experiencing homelessness, and those speaking languages that the Census online form will not be translated into, such as Hmong, Oromo, and Somali. (Note: Videos and printed materials will also be made available in 59 total languages. Many local community centers, libraries, schools, and nonprofits are also offering other census resources.)
  • Despite the fact that the citizenship question will not be included on the 2020 Census, some communities have uncertainty about whether their other Census data could be used against them.

3. Addressing Fear and Mistrust

    • There has long been confusion, distrust, and other issues that have lead to the historical undercount of particular communities. This includes those experiencing homelessness, Native American communities, and immigrant communities.Moreover, simply being a renter is the number one predictor of going uncounted in the census (you can look up historically undercounted communities from across the country on this map).
  • It’s illegal for anyone but the Census Bureau to use your information or share your personal census responses.  2020 Census and Confidentiality Overview


      • Title 13 of U.S. Code states that it is illegal for the Census Bureau to share one’s information with another government entity – federal, state, or local – until 72 years have passed. This means that until that 72-year period expires, no one is ever identified individually in the census data. This also means that the Census Bureau would not be allowed to share an individual’s census information with a local housing authority or a federal agency like ICE.


  • Many do not feel comfortable talking to someone from Census at their door. Fortunately, you can reduce the chance of a census worker coming to your home if your household responds to the census online before enumerators begin going door-to-door.