Preparing for the 2020 Census

Today, the National League of Cities (NLC) released Preparing for the 2020 Census, a new municipal action guide that will help cities navigate the upcoming census. Census MAG CoverVisit to find the full guide.

Even before the U.S. Constitution outlines the powers of the three branches of the government, it mandates a decennial count of all persons in the country. In 1790, census takers counted fewer than 4 million people through simple paper tallies and door-to-door operations. Today, a diversifying culture, new technologies and demand for greater efficiencies have pushed the U.S. Census Bureau to innovate and adapt as it prepares to count more than 330 million people in 2020. As a local leader, understanding how your city, town or village will be counted and what you can do now to improve results in 2020 is paramount to the completion of a successful census in your community.

Municipal governments have an important relationship with the census — both as consumers of the invaluable data it gathers and as partners in ensuring the complete and accurate count of our cities. Data produced by the census not only remain foundational to our democratic system, but also improve our ability to understand who we are and to function as one of the world’s largest countries and economies.

Census figures are the basis for defining our federal, state and local political districts. Census figures also fuel medical, economic and social research on communities, and inform much of our local infrastructure planning and decision-making processes. Perhaps most importantly, the data play a crucial role in determining how more than $800 billion of federal funding is distributed and allocated annually across state and local governments.

The National League of Cities (NLC) supports the Census Bureau’s mission to “serve as the nation’s leading provider of quality data about its people and economy.” We also understand the many ways in which Census Bureau data impact a city. This guide has been carefully created to provide local leaders with objective information about and resources for the upcoming census. We hope the contents of this guide inspire and empower you to take an active role in preparing your city for 2020.

Finally, we would like to thank the numerous city and municipal officials, partner organizations and census advocates who helped inform, shape and produce content for this useful and shareable document.

Read NLC’s newest municipal action guide Preparing for the 2020 Census here at

SmJm0SmP.jpgAbout the Author: Clarence E. Anthony is the CEO & Executive Director of the National League of Cities. Follow him on Twitter @ceanthony50.