The 2020 census is underway | Part One

  • Sat Sep 14th, 2019 1:30am
  • News

by Brad Brown

Special to the Sounder

The federal government through the Department of Commerce hired more than 25,000 new employees last month to carry out the 2020 US Census. And they plan to continue.

What is often called our nation’s largest civilian mobilization, the recruiting and hiring of staff has begun to carry out the essential and constitutionally mandated counting of residents in the United States.

The Census Bureau jobs are classified as work-from-home, remote, or fieldwork. Beginning, entry positions earn $18 an hour or more, with actual census takers, or enumerators, receiving $23 an hour with a pay of $20.50 while training.

Though the Bureau is “able to verify 65% of addresses using satellite imagery,” said Census Bureau Geography Division Chief Deirdre Bishop, “we will have to about 40,000 employees around the nation to verify the remaining 35% of addresses.”

Washington state census field activities, coordinated by the Los Angeles regional office, began in August.

Those wishing to inquire about or apply for US Census 2020 employment must fill out an application online at There is also a toll-free phone number for particular questions: 855-562-2020. The Seattle area census office phone number is 206-288-7842.

Census 2020 has received more than 170,000 applicants through spring of 2019.

To be eligible for a 2020 Census job, you must:

• Be at least 18 years old.

• Have a valid social security number.

• Be a U.S. citizen.

• Have a valid email address.

• Complete an application and answer assessment questions. Some assessment questions are available in Spanish. However, an English proficiency test may also be required.

• Be registered with the Selective Service System or have a qualifying exemption, if you are a male born after Dec. 31, 1959.

• Pass a Census-performed criminal background check and a review of criminal records, including fingerprinting.

• Commit to completing training.

• Be available to work flexible hours, which can include days, evenings, and/or weekends.

Most jobs require employees to:

• Have access to a vehicle and a valid driver’s license, unless public transportation is readily available.

• Have access to a computer with the internet and an email account (to complete training).

There are military veterans’ preferences in hiring for Census 2020 and there are incentives for workers who are fluent in one of the census non-English languages, such as Spanish.

The census is authorized by the U.S. Constitution under its first article. It was designed to determine the number of congressional representatives per state. Over the more than two centuries of its enumerating the data obtained by this every ten-year accounting of who lives in our country has helped inform and form policy-making from allocation of federal school and infrastructure funds to the managing of resources as shifts in population become evident.

Part Two of this look at census 2020 will examine what kind of information is obtained by the census, how it is used, and how it is available to the general public.

Brad Brown is an Orcas Island resident.