Why everyone must participate in the 2020 Census

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O P I N I O N

THE SOAPBOX

Stand up. Speak up. It’s your turn.


Every 10 years, the government embarks on a critical effort to count every resident of the United States. The census is important for a multitude of reasons, especially because it affects federal funding for a number of essential services, including education, emergency response and transportation. It also determines funding for programs aimed at providing healthy and affordable neighborhoods, like housing grants and loans and assistance for families in need.  

It’s crucial that the census record an accurate count of New Hampshire residents to ensure our cities and towns have access to the resources they need. However, the census will only be accurate if members of all communities in New Hampshire participate. Unfortunately, the process is notorious for underrepresenting people of color, new citizens, immigrants and renters. These groups make up an important piece of our community, and they need to be counted. 

Historically, groups such as recent immigrants and underrepresented minority communities have expressed concerns about privacy and sensitive personal information ending up in the wrong hands. Many members of these groups have sat out the census process as a result. After years of marginalization, it’s not a surprise that people from underrepresented communities are less likely to participate in this process.


CLICK HERE to fill out the 2020 CENSUS survey online once you receive your invitation (March 12-April 27 depending on where you live), available in multiple languages. You will need your Census ID number from materials received via the U.S. mail. More information is embedded below including a timeline.


It’s important to note that the information collected in the census is completely protected by federal law, and the Census Bureau is prohibited from sharing any information collected with other government agencies. The Census also does not include a citizenship question, so residents should feel protected and empowered to participate. With so much on the line this year, people from every community across the state must join in. 

If too many people in a particular community choose not to participate, needs won’t be met and underrepresented segments of the population will not get the funds they need for schools, housing, transportation and critical environmental protections.  

We all need our city departments, non-profits and employers to drive awareness efforts and encourage their community members to participate in the census. Manchester, Nashua, and Concord have the largest number of diverse communities in the state, so it is critical for stakeholders in those cities to support and encourage the participation of all people to complete the census. 

Nashua has done a particularly good job coordinating efforts between businesses and nonprofits, convening several groups starting last June to ensure greater participation from minority communities.  

There is a lot at stake in Manchester, the most diverse city in New Hampshire, with limited resources to address the needs and challenges of its low-income communities and communities of color. Stronger participation in the census from these groups can mean more federal funding in the areas that need it most. It’s essential that efforts in Manchester focus on organizations and community groups going out of their way to make sure everyone is participating in the census.

There are tools and materials put together by the census team that are ready to support organizations in disseminating information and hosting Q&A sessions. Employers and community organizations can also help by designating individuals in their organization as point people to guide folks who have questions or concerns. They can also provide opportunities for people to complete the census documents on paper and submit them by mail or digitally through the census website.

Every one of New Hampshire’s communities stands to lose when some of our neighbors choose to sit this process out. The greatest population growth New Hampshire has seen in the past ten years has been immigrants who contribute immeasurably New Hampshire’s thriving economy. A complete count helps to recognize this contribution in a way that pays dividends through our fair share of federal dollars.


Deo Mwano is an Environmental Justice Advocate at Conservation Law Foundation New Hampshire.

Rev. Sarah Rockwell is a member of the Granite State Organizing Project Executive Council


How To Respond

The 2020 Census will ask a few simple questions about you and everyone who is or will be living with you on April 1, 2020.

For the first time, you can choose to complete the census online, by phone, or by mail. Find out more about each of these methods below:

Please note that if you are responding online, you must complete the census in one sitting, as you don’t have the ability to save your progress. See the questions the census asks here.

If you do not receive an invitation to respond from the Census Bureau, you may respond online or visit this Contact Us page to call a dedicated phone line. Please note the census timeline below.