About the Census

What is the Census?

The U.S. Census Bureau conducts a count of every person living in the United States every 10 years, mandated by the U.S. Constitution in Article 1, Section 2.  The data collected by the decennial census determines the number of seats Maryland has in the U.S. House of Representatives and is also used to distribute billions in federal funds to its local communities. (See sample Census 2020 questionnaire)
  • It's Important
  • It's Easy
  • It's Safe
  • It's Right Around the Corner - April 1, 2020
The law requires the Census Bureau to keep all information confidential and use it only to
produce statistics.


2020 Census Form Mailing Dates

The decennial census will take place on April 1, 2020. The census requires counting an increasingly diverse and growing population of around 330 million people in more than 140 million housing units in the United States.


Why a Census?

The data collected by the census is important information for decision making.

Distribution of Federal Funds: The distribution of billions of dollars in federal funds and well as the allocation of state and local funds are based on formulas that depend on population counts and socioeconomic measures (e.g. poverty and income) per Marylander over the course of the decade. A good count assures Marylanders of their fair share of funding for important and life-saving programs.

Government and Community Programs and Services: The decennial census provides key data to support decisions on where investments need to be made for transportation, schools, healthcare, job training, housing, daycare and public safety, among others.

Business Investment Decisions: Businesses rely on decennial census data to supply the detailed descriptions of communities and places needed to make site location, marketing, service delivery and advertising decisions. Census data helps business owners know what Marylanders want and need in the way of goods and services within their communities.

Reapportionment and Redistricting: Census results are the foundation for Maryland’s political representation and the redrawing of political districts (congressional, state legislative and councilmanic) based on equal numbers of persons per district. The quality (completeness and accuracy) of census data directly impacts this fundamental foundation of our democracy.


What Does an Undercount Mean for Maryland?

The purpose of the census is to count every living person where they are on April 1, 2020. Every person not counted equates to $1,821* in lost federal funding every year ($18,210 over ten years), until the next decennial census occurs in 2030.

*Source: George Washington University: Counting for Dollars 2020: The Role of the Decennial Census in the Geographic Distribution of Federal Funds


How Does Maryland Fit Into the Census?

The Maryland Department of Planning (Planning) is designated as the State Data Center for Maryland by the U.S. Census Bureau under its State Data Center program. The State Data Center (SDC) program is one of the bureau's longest and most successful partnerships, which was created to make census data more accessible to Marylanders.

The Maryland State Data Center is key partner in providing technical assistance to the U.S. Census Bureau in preparation for the 2020 Census and subsequent redistricting activities. Planning provides support in three programmatic ways:
  1. Provides foundational data - Planning's computerized parcel database of the Maryland's more than two million records helps to ensure the bureau’s address files and maps are up to date and complete during the Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) operation. In addition to this work, Planning is responsible for several programs related to updating census digital data including block boundaries, boundary annexations, group quarters and the Count Review Program.
  2. Acts as conduit for access to census data - Through a cooperative agreement with the Census Bureau, the Maryland State Data Center serves as the lead state agency for providing access to and dissemination of Census and related federal statistical data to users in Maryland.
  3. Provides Redistricting Technical Support - Planning supports the redistricting process through data acquisition, cleaning, analysis and dissemination to the public.