Cities Count: Preparing for the 2020 Census

Family on porch
Family on porch

"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." 

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 municipality. These resources have been assembled to provide local leaders with objective information about and resources to prepare for the upcoming 2020 Census. 

Read Our Census Action Guide

Join NLC's Census Network

Why the Census Matters to Municipalities

  • An accurate census helps ensure fair representation at all levels of government. The primary constitutional purpose for the decennial census is to determine how many congressional representatives each state will have for the next decade and to ensure equal representation in the redistricting process. For instance, congressional districts and the boundaries of your local wards are determined by census numbers.
  • The census directly impacts the funding your municipality will receive over the next decade. Population counts and statistics derived from both the decennial census and other surveys determine the annual allocation of more than $800 billion in federal investment across states, counties and municipalities. While many financial assistance programs and block grants, like the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), are distributed to municipalities based on American Community Survey (ACS) statistics, the benchmark for all ACS data is the decennial census.
  • The census provides the most reliable and complete data for research, decision making and planning for both the public and private sectors. Academic institutions, medical facilities, businesses of all sizes and all levels of government rely on census data to inform their research, decision making and planning. While the decennial census only asks a few basic questions, the population counts and demographic data that it produces serve as a benchmark for most other current statistics that help us gain deeper insights into our communities.

Census Resources for Local Governments

Municipal Action Guide (MAG)
Comprehensive "get started" guide for your municipalities 2020 Census preparedness efforts.

City Census Checklist
Quick checklist to ensure your municipality is on track to be counted.

Census Timeline for Cities
High-level timeline of Census Bureau activities that take place in communities or require municipal involvement.

Fast Facts and Talking Points for Constituents
High-level talking points for local officials to use to respond to constituent inquiries. 

The "Citizenship Question"
Updates on the progression and ultimate removal of a untested citizenship question to the 2020 Census questionnaire.

Templates for Municipalities

Service Provider (3-1-1) Knowledge Base Template
Many municipal governments use service providers or 3-1-1 systems to respond to census inquiries. Use our template knowledge base to train your providers or 3-1-1 operators to respond to questions with accurate and timely information. Word Doc file to be edited and customized for your community as needed. Base template produced by and thanks to the City of Philadelphia. 

Partner Resources

Below are direct links to resource pages from census partner organizations:

Broad Coalitions

Census Counts Campaign (Leadership Conference)

The Census Project

Census and Cities

Harvard Kennedy School: "Can Cities Save the Census"

State Resources

National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL)

    Local Stakeholders

    American Library Association

    National Council of Nonprofits


    The Annie E. Casey Foundation

    Count All Kids

    Young Children and their Families in the 2020 Census (Leadership Conference)

    People Experiencing Homelessness

    Counting People Experiencing Homelessness (Georgetown Poverty)

    African American Community

    Following a Long History, the 2020 Census Risks Undercounting the Black Population (Urban Institute)

    National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)

    Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Community (AAPI)

    Asian Americans Advancing Justice

    Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in the 2020 Census (Leadership Conference)

    AARP Frauds and Scam Census Tip Sheet (Chinese - Traditional)

    AARP Frauds and Scam Census Tip Sheet (Vietnamese)

    AARP Frauds and Scam Census Tip Sheet (Korean)

    Latino Community

    National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO)

    Latinos in the 2020 Census (Leadership Conference)

    AARP Frauds and Scam Census Tip Sheet (Spanish)

    LGBTQ+ Community

    Queer the Census (National LGBTQ Taskforce)

    Middle Eastern and North African Descent (MENA)

    Middle Eastern and North African Americans in the 2020 Census (Leadership Conference)

    Native Americans / American Indians

    American Indians and Alaska Natives In the 2020 Census (Leadership Conference)

    National Congress of American Indians (NCAI)


    Why the 2020 Census Matters for Rural America (Georgetown Poverty)

    Counting Rural America (Georgetown Poverty)

    Persons Over 50

    AARP Frauds and Scams Census Tip Sheet



    Census MAG Cover
    Census MAG Cover