BEND — Oregon residents will start to receive letters in March asking for general information about themselves for the 2020 census, the official count of U.S. residents every 10 years.
Until then, U.S. Census Bureau officials and staff at the Portland State University Population Research Center are working to educate the public about the census.
The agencies hosted conferences this week in Salem, Redmond and Portland.
Charles Rynerson, the state data center coordinator at the Population Research Center, gave a presentation at the Redmond conference this week about the importance of participating in the census and challenges the Census Bureau faces.
Accurate census data is an important measure for federal funding in Oregon, Rynerson said. It helps fund health care, education and other public institutions in the state.
In 2016, Oregon received $13.5 billion in federal funding, which accounts for about $3,200 per resident, according to national data.
“Everybody who is not counted in the census is missing out on thousands of dollars from the federal government,” Rynerson said.
Census figures are used to determine the number of representatives each state has in the U.S. House. Population projections show Oregon could get a sixth seat in the U.S. House after the 2020 census, Rynerson said.
Census officials are reminding people that a citizenship question will not be on the 2020 census, despite an effort earlier this year from the Trump administration to add the question. The proposal to add the citizenship question has been blocked by federal judges.
Citizenship questions are on other surveys from the Census Bureau and partisan organizations.
Officials are concerned the confusion will keep people from answering the 2020 census, especially residents who live with immigrants, Rynerson said.
One in nine Oregonians, or about 456,000 people, lives with at least one noncitizen, according to the Census Bureau.
While citizenship is not part of the 2020 census, some questions have been updated since the last census in 2010.
People will be able to list the origins of their race. For example, someone who is white, can also add that they are Irish.
Another change allows people to list a same-sex or opposite-sex partner rather than listing husband or wife.
Nick Brown, Oregon partnership specialist for the U.S. Census Bureau, attended the Redmond conference and described his work connecting with Central Oregon organizations to promote participation in the 2020 census.
If a person does not respond to the census questionnaire through the mail, by phone or online, a Census Bureau worker will come to the home, Brown said.
“The best way for someone to not have someone from the Census Bureau come to their door is to answer every question on the census,” he said.
Census Bureau workers are bound by a federal law to protect people’s privacy and only use the information for creating statistics. If a worker violates that law, they could face up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
“It’s something we take very seriously in the Census Bureau. We are not giving away people’s information.”
Michael Hawes, senior adviser for data access and privacy at the U.S. Census Bureau, spoke at the Redmond conference about privacy measures. Hawes described how the agency works to balance privacy with accurate statistics. More privacy protection can lead to less accurate statistics, and vice versa, he said.
“We know that privacy is becoming an increased concern for the American public,” Hawes said. “We have a major challenge to keep the public’s trust and reassure our respondents that we can adequately protect their information when they entrust it to us.”
The 2020 census will officially be conducted April 1, but U.S. residents will start to receive letters in the mail in March asking them to report online. Nonresponse follow-up visits from Census Bureau staff will be done in May.
The final census tally will be complete by July.