Be Counted: Why the Census Is So Important

Edmund Balzer

March 26, 2020

By Edmund Balzer

Categories: In the Community, Library News

census page banner


The 2020 Census is here! The census is conducted once every 10 years by the U.S. Census Bureau, a nonpartisan government agency. It is the constitutionally required count of every person living in the United States.

The census form asks questions about all the people who live and sleep in a household most of the time, including babies and anyone who has no other permanent place to stay and is staying in the household as of April 1, 2020. The census form should take about 10 minutes to complete, depending on the number of people in the household, and can be easily completed online.


Why is the Census important?

Census data are used to make decisions about how and where to spend more than $800 billion each year for federal programs and services that communities rely on.

The census population count is used to determine representation in Congress and the Electoral College.

Census data also drive federal funding allocations for libraries.

Census data help local leaders make planning decisions about where libraries should be located, whether they should expand, and what kinds of services should be offered based on the characteristics of the community.


How an undercount would negatively impact Illinois and Morton Grove

Sixteen percent of Illinois’ population live in "hard-to-count" communities. The failure to count every Illinois resident would have devastating effects on Illinois' ability to meet the needs of its residents.

The census determines the number of seats Illinois has in the U.S. House of Representatives. Illinois is already predicted to lose one seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, but an undercount could lead to losing two seats.

Illinois deserves a fair and proportioned representation in the U.S Congress and we need to ensure that happens with an inclusive and accurate census count.

Illinois will receive $4,395 per person for the next 10 years. With an estimated population of 22,943 people, Morton Grove is worth over $100 million per year over the next 10 years.


How do I fill out the Census?

You should receive an invitation letter in the mail with instructions for responding to the census online. The invitation will include a unique identification code called a Census ID or User ID. If you don’t have your Census ID handy, you can use your address instead. The online questionnaire will be available in 13 languages. Paper questionnaires are available in English and bilingual English-Spanish only.


Is my Census information safe?

The Census Bureau is bound by Title 13 of the United States Code. This means private information is never published. It is against the law to disclose or publish any private information that identifies an individual or business such, including names, addresses (including GPS coordinates), Social Security Numbers, and telephone numbers.

The Census Bureau collects information to produce statistics. Personal information cannot be used against respondents by any government agency or court.

Census Bureau employees are sworn to protect confidentiality. People sworn to uphold Title 13 are legally required to maintain the confidentiality of your data. Every person with access to your data is sworn for life to protect your information and understands that the penalties for violating this law are applicable for a lifetime.

Violating the law is a serious federal crime. Anyone who violates this law will face severe penalties, including a federal prison sentence of up to five years, a fine of up to $250,000, or both.


What questions will the Census never ask?

The census will never ask for:

  • Your Social Security number
  • Money or donations
  • Anything on behalf of a political party
  • Your bank or credit card account numbers
  • Your mother’s maiden name
  • Citizenship status
  • Immigration status

The Library is committed to a complete and accurate count. Check out our Census page for more resources or stop by the Library to ask us your questions!

Edmund Balzer is an Adult Services Librarian at Morton Grove Public Library.