The NCSL Blog


By Christi Zamarripa

PhoenixWhat do Toksook Bay, Alaska, differential privacy, partnership engagement and onesies have to do with the 2020 census?

Attendees at the NCSL Capitol Forum found out how all of these relate to the census at the session "It’s Go Time for the Census: Counting Down to 2020."

Kathleen Styles, chief of Decennial Communications and Stakeholder Relations for the U.S. Census Bureau, updated lawmakers and other attendees on the bureau’s activities for the 2020 census. She spoke about data privacy, cybersecurity and self-response options.

The bureau is asking everyone to “self-respond” to the survey when they receive notification that it’s time, rather than waiting for bureau staff to knock on their doors.

The bureau is hiring 500,000 temporary workers. “The Census Bureau is working with state and tribal governments to get census income excluded so that individuals who received SNAP, TANF, Medicaid and CHIP benefits can work as census takers without losing their eligibility status,” Styles said.

Debbie Johnson, executive director for the Arizona Office of Tourism and the chair of Arizona’s Complete Count Committee, provided details on what Arizona is doing to encourage a full census count. Arizona’s statewide committee has 14 subcommittees driving community-based initiatives and boosting a state agency awareness campaign. Arizona is asking all state agencies, through their channels of communication with residents, to encourage participation in the census. 

So, what about Toksook Bay, Alaska, differential privacy, partnership engagement and onesies?

Toksook Bay, Alaska: Even though Census Day is officially April 1, 2020, the counting begins in Toksook Bay, Alaska, on Jan. 21, 2020. (Experience proves it is best to do the work while the ice is still solid.)

Differential privacy: To meet its statutory obligations to keep census responses completely confidential, the bureau has committed to modernizing its approach to privacy protections. Differential privacy will allow the bureau to quantify a precise level of risk to the data, and apply safeguards. This helps to prevent someone from being able to trace information collected back to a specific respondent.

Partnership engagement: The Census Bureau is engaging with state and local partners to help motivate people to self-respond and keep awareness high throughout the entire 2020 census.

Onesies: Nearly 1 million children were not counted by the 2010 census. To avoid a repeat, some states are being creative to try and capture this demographic. For example, Arizona plans to distribute “We Count” onesies to newborn children.

For more information on the census and what actions states are taking to ensure an accurate count, see NCSL’s webpage on census legislation and resources.  

Christi Zamarripa is a policy associate with NCSL’s Elections and Redistricting Program.

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This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.