About the 2020 Census

Adapted from the OC Counts Orange County Census Playbook (https://charitableventuresoc.org/oc-counts-playbook/)

Every decade for most of this nation’s history, data from the decennial census has been used to allocate federal funding, determine political balance, and spur economic development in local communities. A fair, valid and reliable census is central to the fair governance of our nation.

Accurate census data are essential for the prudent, equitable allocation of government resources, and for the fair distribution of political representation at the national, state and local levels. More than $1.5 trillion in federal assistance is distributed to states, localities, and families annually based on decennial census data.1 Yet historically, the census has missed disproportionate numbers of racial and ethnic groups, immigrants, young children, and low-income individuals, leading to inequality in political power and in access to public funding and private investment for these communities.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Census faced unprecedented challenges: limited and delayed funding resulting in canceled questionnaire testing and scaled-back preparations; cybersecurity threats (real and perceived) and the digital divide as the first high-tech census rolled out; community reluctance and fear of sharing information with the government; and leadership challenges at the U.S. Census Bureau.

Orange County actors from all sectors pulled together to achieve a 76.6% Self-Response Rate, well above the county’s 2010 Self-Response Rate of 71.7%. After the census closed on October 15, 2020, Charitable Ventures Orange County, with support from the Orange County Community Foundation, created the Orange County Census Playbook to help local leaders learn from a county-wide collaborative effort and better prepare for the next decennial census.

We encourage outreach partners to use the OC Census Playbook and the OC Census Atlas in tandem to understand the complete story and lessons learned from the 2020 Census. For questions about the OC Census Playbook, contact Charitable Ventures Orange County at info@charitableventuresoc.org.

Refer to the Orange County Census Playbook for:

  1. Overview of the unique challenges behind the 2020 Census count (pages 8-9)

  2. Breakdown of the 2020 Census timeline and milestones (Appendix 1, pages 48-51)

  3. Summary of OC Counts outreach tactics before and after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic (pages 33-35)

  4. OC Counts outreach plan for the non-response follow up (NRFU) period (Appendix 11, pages 93-97)


Reamer, Andrew (2019) Counting for Dollars 2020: The Role of Decennial Census in the Geographic Distribution of Federal Funds. George Washington University