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Last updated: 9/9/19

Boston Counts 2020

Boston Counts 2020 is the City’s effort to support an equitable and complete count in the next U.S. Census.

We will work to ensure every resident in Boston is counted, because every resident in Boston counts. We'll continue to add more information to this page about the census as we receive it.

What is the census?

Why the census is important

The Census is a constitutionally required nationwide survey. It's conducted every 10 years by the U.S. Census Bureau to count the population of the United States. The data collected by the Census:

  • determines the number of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and influence in the Electoral College
  • informs redistricting, defining congressional districts, state legislative districts, and local city council districts for the next 10 years, and
  • directs more than $675 billion in federal funding to states and cities.
What's at stake

Much of the funding that comes from the Census count helps the most vulnerable among us. It provides health care, education, food and nutrition programs, housing, and child care for low-income families

  • In Fiscal Year 2015Massachusetts received $16 billion for programs such as Medicaid, Medicare, SNAP, Section 8 Vouchers, Title 1 Education Grants, and Head Start.
  • For every resident who is not counted in the state, $2,372 in funding is missed.

The Census has a big impact on the services Boston and its neighborhoods receive. This is why we need an equitable and complete count.

Common questions

Common questions

Everyone should be counted. Regardless of immigration status, housing security, age, race, or ability, you count equally in our democracy. We need to make sure you get counted.

The place where you live and sleep most of the time, on or around Census Day, which is April 1, 2020.

In March 2020, you will receive an invitation postcard from the Census Bureau with instructions on how to fill out your form. For the first time, you can respond to the Census online or by phone. You can do so in 12 different languages.

No. All Census data is protected by federal law. Your personal information cannot be used against you by any government agency or court.

An incomplete Census form may result in a visit to your home by a Census worker. All Census workers will clearly identify themselves with an official Census Bureau badge. They will never ask to enter your home or for your social security number, bank account, or credit card information.

"Hard to Count" tracts are defined as tracts with 2010 mail return rates of 73% or less. That puts them in the bottom 20 percent of return rates nationwide.

Boston has the largest total number of people in Massachusetts living in Hard to Count tracts. Nearly 415,000, or 63% people, were Hard to Count in 2014.

Hard to Count populations include:
  • People living in “group quarters” (for example, college dorms, residential treatment centers, nursing homes)
  • Renters or those who move frequently
  • Recent immigrants
  • Populations that speak little or no English
  • Children under age 5
  • People with lower incomes or lower educational attainment

Join a Complete Count Subcommittee. These subcommittees use neighborhood knowledge, influence, and resources to educate communities. They promote the Census through locally based, targeted outreach efforts.

For more information, contact Sebastian Zapata at or call 617-635-4478.

Our population is ever-changing and especially hard to count. Boston depends on everyone to participate and be counted so that the Census accurately reflects the diverse populations that call our City home.