Personnel Support Division

Field Support (PSC-PSD-FS)


U.S. Census Program

American Community Survey



The 2020 Census must consider the unique challenges of the era at the same time new opportunities with respect to information and technology. There are unprecedented challenges facing the U.S. Census Bureau as it plans for the 2020 Census.

We believe current planning activities will support a new census design that will fundamentally change the way in which censuses are taken in the United States. We are working toward a design that has the potential to produce significantly less costly and faster results that are of similar or better quality than in previous censuses.


What is the American Community Survey?

The American Community Survey (ACS) is an ongoing survey that provides vital information on a yearly basis about our nation and its people. Information from the survey generates data that help determine how more than $400 billion in federal and state funds are distributed each year.

Through the ACS, we know more about jobs and occupations, educational attainment, veterans, whether people own or rent their home, and other topics. Public officials, planners, and entrepreneurs use this information to assess the past and plan the future. When you respond to the ACS, you are doing your part to help your community plan hospitals and schools, support school lunch programs, improve emergency services, build bridges, and inform businesses looking to add jobs and expand to new markets, and more.


About the Census

As mandated by the U.S. Constitution, America gets just one chance each decade to count the population. The U.S. Census counts every resident in the United States. It is mandated by Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution and takes place every 10 years. The data collected by the decennial census determine the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives (a process called apportionment) and is also used to distribute billions in federal funds to local communities.

The next Census in 2020 will require counting an increasingly diverse and growing population of around 330 million people in more than 140 million housing units. To get an accurate count, the Census Bureau must build an accurate address list of every housing unit, maximize self-response to the census, and efficiently follow up with those who do not respond.

Currently we are conducting research in four areas that focus on the major cost drivers of the decennial census:

  • Use the Internet to increase self-response.

  • Use existing government data sources to answer census questions and reduce follow-up workload.

  • Automate operations to increase productivity and reduce staff and offices.

  • Use existing maps and address to reflect changes rather than walking every block in every neighborhood in America.

The decennial census is the largest mobilization and operation conducted in the United States and requires years of research, planning and development of methods and infrastructure to ensure an accurate and complete count.


2020 Census Operational Plan

The 2020 Census Operational Plan was re-posted on December 31, 2015 with a new look and feel. There were no content changes to the document previously released on October 1, 2015.

The U.S. Census Bureau's 2020 Census Operational Plan documents the current design for conducting the 2020 Census. As the initial version of an emerging concept of operations, it reflects and supports evidence-based decision making by describing design concepts and their rationale, identifying decisions still to be made, and describing significant issues and risks related to the implementation of the Operational Plan.

The purpose of the 2020 Census is to conduct a census of population and housing and disseminate the results to the President, the states, and the American people. The goal of the 2020 Census is to count everyone once, only once, and in the right place, and the challenge is to conduct a 2020 Census at a lower cost per household (adjusted for inflation) than the 2010 Census, while maintaining high quality results.  


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WASHINGTON DC  20593-7200