Brooklyn Boro

The 2020 Census begins tomorrow. Here’s what you need to know

March 11, 2020 Alex Williamson

Tomorrow is the start of your chance to take part in the census, the federal government’s once-in-a-decade effort to get an accurate count of every person living in the country.

The population of Brooklyn is notoriously hard to nail down. According to the Brooklyn Community Foundation, Kings County is the most difficult county in New York State in which to conduct the census, with over 20 percent of Brooklynites living in neighborhoods classified as “hard to count” by the Census Bureau.

Roughly 33 percent of Brooklynites did not mail back their census forms in 2010, giving Brooklyn the lowest mail return rate in the country among counties with populations over 500,000.

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The city’s overall census participation rate was less than 62 percent in 2010, compared with a national average of 76 percent.

Brooklyn’s community leaders are hoping for a better return rate in 2020, since the data gathered helps to determine how much federal money the borough gets for local needs like public education, food assistance programs, infrastructure, affordable housing and more — not to mention how many representatives in congress Brooklyn has.

The high stakes have led the city to invest $40 million in census outreach, including community-based grants, partnerships with the Brooklyn Public Library, field operations and a multilingual marketing campaign called “Get Counted NYC” to drive home the importance of census participation.

Brooklyn households will begin receiving the first census mailers March 12. The form can be completed online, by phone or by free return mail.

The form is available in 13 languages and asks for basic information about the people living in your household as of April 1, 2020, including roommates, children, partners and tenants. The Census Bureau estimates it takes about 10 minutes to complete.

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The form will not ask for your social security number, or about your citizenship status, after a major legal battle last year. That last point is important, since, according to a 2019 survey from the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, 42 percent of undocumented immigrants believe a citizenship question is part of the census.

Forty branches of the Brooklyn Public Library will serve as “census hubs,” with workers onsite to help people complete the census form online.

If you don’t respond to the census form by April, you can expect a census taker to knock on your door sometime in the coming months. The federal employees are also enlisted to count the homeless, students and other hard-to-reach populations.


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