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7 facts about the U.S. census

This year’s census is the largest First-Class Mail mailing in a 90-day period in USPS history. Image: U.S. Census Bureau

The 2020 census began for most of the United States this month and will continue through Aug. 14. Here are seven facts about the once-a-decade national headcount.

1. The United States was the first nation to enshrine the census in its constitution. The first census was in 1790 during George Washington’s presidency and was referred to in the Constitution as the “enumeration of inhabitants.” There were approximately 4 million people counted in that census.

2. The 49th state goes first. Some parts of rural Alaska can only be reached when the ground is frozen, so census enumerators go door-to-door in January — more than two months before the rest of the nation. This helps ensure census takers reach villages before the spring thaw, when residents head out to hunt and fish.

3. The 2020 census is making mailing history. This year’s census is the largest First-Class Mail mailing in a 90-day period in USPS history. In March, USPS began delivering 590 million census mailpieces to homes, including questionnaires, letters and postcards.

4. The first census mass mailing was 60 years ago. In 1960, the census questionnaire was mailed to every occupied household in the nation for the first time. Residents were asked to complete a questionnaire and return it to an enumerator.

5. Census scams abound. Avoid fraud related to the census by knowing the facts. The Census Bureau will never send unsolicited emails requesting participation in the 2020 census. The bureau also will never ask for your Social Security number, your bank account information, money, donations or anything on behalf of a political party.

6. The government uses many languages to count residents. The website offers content in 59 languages, including language assistance guides and videos that explain how to complete the census questionnaire online, by phone or by mail. People can respond to the census online and by phone in 13 languages.

7. The census is the largest peacetime operation in the United States. The Census Bureau employed approximately 635,000 office and field staff during the execution of the 2010 census — that’s approximate in size to the entire Postal Service!

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