The federal government is preparing to ask some personal questions for the 2020 census.

By April 1, 2020, the Census Bureau plans to send a letter or a door knocker to every U.S. household. It’s part of a once-a-decade tradition required by the federal Constitution of counting every person living in the U.S. The census has existed since 1790.

Danny Dever, a U.S. Census Bureau representative, reminded Chamber of Commerce members at its recent meeting of the importance of filling out the census form.

Census numbers will shape how political power and federal tax dollars are shared in the U.S. over the next 10 years. Demographic data are used by businesses to determine, for example, where to build new stores.

The census determines the distribution of federal funding for education, roads and other public services in a local community.

The 2020 census will officially start on Jan. 21 in Toksook Bay, Alaska, more than two months before Census Day, April 1. Most households will start participating around mid-March, when letters with instructions are scheduled to be sent to 95 percent of homes around the country.

The 2020 count will be the first one to allow all U.S. households to respond online. Paper forms will still be available, and, for the first time, you will be able to call an 800 number to give responses over the phone.

Census workers will make home visits to remote areas — including rural Alaska, parts of northern Maine and some American Indian reservations — to gather census information in person. Households in the rest of the U.S. that do not respond themselves by early April may start receiving visits from door knockers trained to conduct census interviews and collect responses using smartphones.

Census questions

Most questions will be similar to previous census forms. They include the number of people living or staying in the residence on April 1, 2020, whether the home is owned with or without a mortgage; rented or occupied without rent.

The name, sex, age, date of birth and race of each person in the home will be asked, and the relationship of each to a central person in the household. Whether each person is of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin will be asked.

Notable changes will include a write-in area under the race question for the non-Hispanic origins of those who identify as white and/or black.

There are also new household questions that allow couples living together to identify their relationships as either “same-sex” or “opposite-sex.”

It is unclear whether a controversial question the Trump administration wants to add will be included: “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” The question faces multiple lawsuits.

Census jobs

The Census Bureau will fill a half million full- and part-time positions. Dever said compensation ranges from $15 to $25 per hour.

Applications can be submitted online at 2020census.gov/jobs.