Getting diverse elders ready for the 2020 Census

By now, every home in the United States should have received an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census, our once-in-a-decade opportunity to ensure that our communities are counted. Census results help determine how billions of dollars in federal funding flow into states and communities each year, and the results determine how many seats in Congress each state gets. To ensure that diverse elders, their families, and their caregivers are given the community support and representation that they deserve, the Diverse Elders Coalition is working with our members and partners across the country to promote the census.

Barriers to census completion

Early last year, the U.S. Census Bureau released the results of the 2020 Census Barriers, Attitudes and Motivators Study (2020 CBAMS), which highlighted some of the challenges and concerns that our communities have regarding the census, including:

- Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders were least familiar with the census of all racial/ethnic groups

- Older adults preferred to fill out a paper form vs. completing the census online

- Many of the racial and ethnic groups represented by the DEC reported concern about how their information would be used by the government, as did older adults (35% of those over 60, compared to 19% of those between age 18 to 34)

- 42% of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders felt that participating in the census did not matter to them

- 63% of American Indians and Alaska Natives reported distrust in the Federal and State governments who would be administering the Census

- LGBT people were most likely to respond to the census because of civil rights-related reasons

Additionally, an attempt to add a question about respondents’ citizenship status has created even greater levels of distrust and fear around the census, especially among Hispanic and Asian American communities. There will not be a question about citizenship status on the census, however, these existing attitudes, when combined with language barriers and geographic isolation, mean that many of the older adults served by the Diverse Elders Coalition are at risk of not being counted in the 2020 Census.

What to expect from the 2020 Census

For the first time, every household in the United States will have the option of responding to the census online, by mail or by phone. Beginning in mid-March, most households across the country will receive an invitation to respond to the 2020 Census online. In May, the Census Bureau will begin following up with in-person visits to any household that has not yet responded. Areas of the country that are less likely to respond online will receive a paper questionnaire along with their initial invitation. The final day to complete the 2020 Census is July 31.

Where to get help

If you have questions about the census after receiving your invitation in the mail, help is available. You can contact the U.S. Census Bureau by phone at 800-923-8282 or State and local organizations can also find a partnership representative in their area by contacting their Regional Census Center.

If you’re looking for a job, the U.S. Census Bureau is currently recruiting to fill hundreds of thousands of temporary positions across the country to assist with the 2020 Census count. You can learn more and apply at

Visit to learn about the unique needs of our constituencies as we complete this year’s census. And connect with us on Twitter and Facebook to ask your census questions or share your story of how you’re getting the word out about the census in your community.

This article is part of an ongoing series by the Diverse Elders Coalition, focusing on different segments of the senior population. Jenna McDavid is the Diverse Elders Coalition National Director.

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