2020 Census Operations in Alaska

  • Checking geographic coordinates of a housing unit

    A Census employee checks geographic coordinates of a housing unit as part of the address canvassing operation for the 2010 Census.

    (Credit: U.S. Census Bureau)

  • Winnebago family in Wisconsin

    This Winnebago Indian family in Wisconsin was asked over 32 questions by a census enumerator in 1910. One hundred years later in 2010, the form was significantly shorter, with only 10 questions.

    (Credit: U.S. Census Bureau)

  • Enumerating Alaska by dog team

    Enumerators for the 1940 Census traveled by dog team to reach some areas of Alaska. Alaska was actually enumerated in October 1939 for the 1940 Census, and 72,524 people were counted here.

    (Credit: U.S. Census Bureau via National Archives)

  • First enumeration is in Alaska

    Clifton Jackson, a World War II veteran who was 89 at the time of this photo, was the first person in the nation to be enumerated for the 2010 Census. His home is in Noorvik, Alaska.

    (Credit: U.S. Census Bureau)

  • Dora Kids Count Too.

    U.S. Census Bureau Director Robert Groves launched a public awareness campaign that reminded parents to include their young children on their 2010 Census forms.

    (Credit: U.S. Census Bureau)

  • 2010 U.S. population announcement

    Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, Acting Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank, and Census Bureau Director Robert Groves released the first set of 2010 Census data December 21, 2010.

    (Credit: U.S. Census Bureau)

  • Census Bureau Director Robert Groves rides a dogsled in Noorvik, Alaska

    The 2010 Census began in Noorvik, Alaska. Alaska's remote areas are usually first to be counted so census takers can reach remote villages before residents disperse for seasonal activities.

    (Credit: U.S. Census Bureau)

  • Update Leave envelope and bag

    Census workers hand delivered 2010 Census questionnaires to roughly 12 million addresses across the nation, mostly in rural areas where people do not receive mail at their homes.

    (Credit: U.S. Census Bureau)

  • A large family in 1930 gets enumerated

    Large families like this one helped contribute to the U.S. population's 16 percent rise between 1920 and 1930. The whole nation used to be enumerated by door-to-door census takers.

    (Credit: U.S. Census Bureau)

  • A household gets enumerated in 1960

    All urban residents in the U.S. received a questionnaire by mail for the first time in 1960. Residents completed the questionnaire themselves and kept it until an enumerator came to collect the form.

    (Credit: U.S. Census Bureau)

  • Remote Alaska enumeration in 2000

    Census 2000 started in Unalakleet, Alaska. Alaska's remote areas are usually first to be counted.

    (Credit: U.S. Census Bureau)

General Timeline for 2020 Census

  • Ongoing → American Community Survey
  • January 2019 → Area Census Office opens in Anchorage
  • January 2019 → Participant Statistical Areas Program (PSAP) materials mailed to borough and tribal governments who signed up
  • July 2019 → Communications and advertising campaign begins
  • August 2019 → In-field Address Canvassing and Group Quarters operation begins
  • January 2020 → Enumeration of Remote Alaska begins in Toksook Bay
  • March 2020 → Door-to-door enumeration and Enumeration at Transitory Locations begins
  • April 1, 2020 → 2020 Census Day
  • April 2020 → Non-response follow-up begins for households that did not submit a Census form

Alaska's Type of Enumeration Areas

The Census Bureau not only counts everyone living in the U.S. on Census Day, it must also tie each person to the spot on the ground where he or she lives. This necessity drives Type of Enumeration Areas (TEA) delineation decisions.

In 2020, the Census Bureau plans to reach most households by mail. The Postal Services delivers mail to households in Self-Response areas, which include about 180,000 Alaska households in places such as Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau. When a housing unit in these areas does not respond, census workers may follow up with additional mail or as many as six in-person visits.

Update Leave
People living in medium-sized settlements without mail delivery, such as Valdez, Bethel, and Nome, will receive hand-delivered census materials at their home. These areas are called Update Leave areas; “update” means census employees verify, correct, or add the geographic coordinates of housing units as they deliver materials. In 2010, about 60,000 Alaska households were counted this way. When the Census Bureau does not receive a response from a housing unit in an Update Leave area, employees may follow up in person as many as six times.

Remote Alaska
People living in the most remote places in the country, including much of Alaska, will be counted in person. As with Update Leave areas, these places do not have at-home mail delivery.

In Remote Alaska areas, enumerators verify the location of each housing unit, knock on doors to conduct interviews about the number of people who live there, and get their work validated by a sworn-in local official. This process allows village leaders to review and certify the count for accuracy. These areas had about 30,000 housing units in 2010.

Update Enumerate
Update Enumerate areas are counted in a similar way to Remote Alaska areas, except no village leader validates the count. When no one answers the door at these housing units, the enumerator does not follow up a second time and may seek information about the household from a neighbor or other proxy. In 2010, the Census Bureau used this method for about 4,000 households in sparsely populated areas of Southeast Alaska.

Households in any TEA may also be reinterviewed, because a sample of households are double-checked as a quality-control measure.

Residence Criteria

The U.S. Census Bureau uses residence criteria to determine where people are counted during each decennial census, in accordance with the concept of “usual residence,” or where a person lives and sleeps most of the time. This is not always the same as their residence for tax purposes, voting residence, or preference. In a nutshell, the residence criteria say:

  1. Count people at their usual residence, which is where they live and sleep most of the time.
  2. People in certain types of group facilities on Census Day are counted at the group facility.
  3. People who do not have a usual residence, or who cannot determine a usual residence, are counted where they are on Census Day.

Determining usual residence is straightforward for most people. However, some living arrangements make determinations less straightforward, such as homelessness, seasonal or second residences, hospitals, shared custody arrangements, college, military, and worker dormitories.

The 2020 criteria are basically unchanged from 2010, but the way they are applied changed for five residence situations.

  • Overseas military and civilian employees of the U.S. government
    The 2020 Census will count military and civilian federal employees who are temporarily deployed overseas on Census Day at their usual home address in the United States, as part of the resident population, instead of at their home state of record. Military and civilian employees who are stationed or assigned overseas on Census Day, as well as dependents living with them overseas, will continue to be counted in their home state of record for apportionment purposes only.
  • Overseas federal employees who are not U.S. citizens
    The 2020 Census will count any noncitizens who are military or civilian federal employees deployed, stationed, or assigned overseas on Census Day in the same way as U.S. citizens who are included in the federally affiliated overseas count.
  • Maritime/Merchant Vessel Crews
    The 2020 Census will count the crews of U.S. flag maritime or merchant vessels who are sailing between a U.S. port and a foreign port on Census Day at their usual home address, or at the U.S. port if they have no usual home address.
  • Juveniles in Treatment Centers
    The 2020 Census will count juveniles staying in non-correctional residential treatment centers on Census Day at their usual home address, or at the facility if they have no usual home address.
  • Religious Group Quarters Residents
    The 2020 Census will count people living in religious group quarters on Census Day at the facility.

For more information about the specific criteria and situations, please see Federal Register Rule 83 FR 5525. Census Bureau Memorandum 2018.04 also contains relevant information.

Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA)

Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) is an opportunity for designees within local governments to review the Census Bureau’s confidential list of residential housing units within their area before the 2020 Census. Participants may provide additions, corrections, deletions, structure point coordinates, and road updates to that list. In order to count everyone in the right place, the Census Bureau relies on a complete and accurate list of housing units in order to reach every place people are living during the 2020 Census. Local government participation in LUCA can help ensure an accurate count.

How local governments can prepare for LUCA:

The Census Bureau's LUCA website has up-to-date information about LUCA.
Here is a recording of Linda Akers Smith's March 16 LUCA promotional presentation via Online With Libraries.
Here are Linda Akers Smith's March 16 PowerPoint slides about LUCA that accompany her presentation.

On-Base Military Enumeration

During the 2020 Census, people living on military installations and military vessels will be enumerated through administrative records supplied to the U.S. Census Bureau by the Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC). These records will include information on both active duty military and dependents who live with them.

To enumerate military personnel who live or stay on U.S. military ships on Census Day, DMDC will provide the Census Bureau with a list military vessels, the homeport of each vessel, the military personnel assigned to each vessel, and the stateside addresses of those personnel, when available. Military vessels are defined as U.S. Navy or U.S. Coast Guard vessels assigned to a homeport in the U.S.

The above information is summarized from 2020 Census Detailed Operational Plan for Group Quarters Operation, published Sept. 29, 2017, pages 66-67.

Address Canvassing

The purpose of address canvassing is (1) to develop a complete and accurate address list and spatial database for enumeration and tabulation, and (2) to determine the type and address characteristics for each living quarter.

For the 2010 Census, address canvassing field staff ("listers") traversed almost every block in the nation to compare what they observed on the ground to the Census Bureau's address list. Listers verified or corrected current addresses, added new addresses, and deleted addresses that no longer existed. Listers also collected GPS coordinates for each structure and added new streets to the list.

For the 2020 Census, the bureau plans to use new in-office canvassing methods and reduce in-field canvassing. In-office address canvassing uses empirical geographic evidence, such as imagery and comparisons of the Census Bureau's address list to partner-provided address lists, to assess and update the current address list.

In-office address canvassing will start with an imagery-based review to assess the extent to which the number of addresses on the bureau's address list is consistent with the number of addresses visible in current imagery. Changes between current imagery and older vintage imagery, which was captured around the time of the 2010 Census address canvassing operation, will also be assessed.

Areas identified as areas of growth, decline, undercoverage of addresses, or overcoverage of addresses during the review process will be further researched using other data sources, including online GIS viewers, parcel data, files acquired through ongoing geographic partnership programs, and commercial data. These other data sources will be used in office to resolve discrepancies, where possible. Areas that can't be resolved in office will become the universe of geographic areas to be worked during in-field address canvassing.

Currently, the Census Bureau predicts 30 percent of addresses in non-Update/Enumerate areas will be worked in field.

In-field address canvassing is the process in which listers visit specific geographic areas to identify every place where people could live or stay, and then to compare what they see on the ground to the bureau's existing address list and either verify or correct the address and location information. For the 2020 Census, listers will also classify each living quarters as either a housing unit or a group quarters facility. Listers will knock on doors at every structure in an attempt to locate living quarters. If someone answers, the lister will ask if there are any additional living quarters in the structure or on the property. If the lister does not find anyone at home, the lister will update the address list as best he or she can by observation.

2017 Census Test

The 2017 Census Test was an opportunity for the Census Bureau to test the feasibility of collecting tribal enrollment information, among other objectives. Areas with relatively high concentrations of people who identify as American Indian or Alaska Native, including Alaska, were oversampled in the test. However, only households with mailable city-style addresses were included in the sample.

The test was conducted in spring 2017.

Based on feedback the Census Bureau received, the bureau decided not to add a question about tribal enrollment to the 2020 Census questionnaire.

The images below show the content of the 2017 Census Test questionnaire.

Complete Count Committees

Complete Count Committees (CCCs) can form at any time.

CCCs are volunteer committees that increase awareness of the decennial census and motivate residents to respond. Committee members represent a cross section of each community, including government agencies; tribes; education, business, nonprofit, and faith-based organizations; and the media. Using local knowledge, CCCs plan and implement census awareness campaigns that address the special characteristics of their communities. Local campaigns are designed to reach traditionally undercounted populations by stressing the importance of an accurate census count, including how data are collected and used.

Nationwide, there were 11,800 CCCs formed for the 2000 Census, and the majority of them were local government committees.

Since the 1980 Census, CCCs have played a major role in raising awareness of each decennial census. Once CCCs form and begin their work for the 2020 Census, CCCs nationwide will implement key activities, including:

  • Holding events, such as a Census Day "Be Counted" parades, that generate interest and participation.
  • Distributing census information and materials through websites, newsletters, and at events.
  • Partnering with organizations in their communities to include census promotion in their communications.

Counting people who are homeless

The Census Bureau aims to count everyone living in the U.S., including people experiencing homelessness. People are counted wherever they live on Census Day or where they are staying on Census Day if they have no permanent place to live. The bureau counts people at shelters, soup kitchens, and outdoor encampments through two operations: Service-Based Enumeration and Enumeration at Transitory Locations. However, there is no one definition of homelessness, and the decennial census questionnaire does not ask people if they are experiencing homelessness. After the decennial census, the Census Bureau publishes a count of people staying at emergency and transitional shelters on Census Day but not a count of people experiencing homelessness.

The Census Bureau plans to work with state, local, and tribal governments to get locations for soup kitchens, emergency shelters, outdoor encampments, and other places people may be staying on Census Day.

Results from the 2010 Census can be found online:

Is my response confidential?

By law, all information that the Census Bureau collects about individuals is confidential. This includes responses on census questionnaires, names, addresses, and residential locations. After 72 years, personally identifiable information collected for a decennial census is released to the public.

For more information, visit the Census Bureau's website.

Uses of Decennial Data

The primary use of decennial census counts is the apportionment of seats allocated to the states for the House of Representatives. This requirement is mandated by the U.S. Constitution.

Decennial census data at the census block level are used by governmental entities for redistricting.

The Census Bureau also uses decennial census results to determine the statistical sampling frames for the American Community Survey (ACS), which replaced the long form in the decennial census, and dozens of other surveys conducted by the Census Bureau. The results of these surveys are used to support important government functions, such as appropriating federal funds to states and local communities (an estimated $675 billion annually); producing monthly unemployment, housing vacancy, and poverty rates; and publishing health and education data.

Finally, decennial data play an increasingly important role in U.S. commerce and the economy. As people expand their use of data to make decisions at the local and national levels, they increasingly depend on data from the Census Bureau to make these decisions.