Census 2020: Self-Response Rate Lagging Behind 2010

Published on June 19, 2020

In 2010, 74% of Arlington households filled out their Census form and returned it by mail, which was the only option at the time. In 2020, despite being able to fill out the Census online, by phone and by mail, Arlington's self-response rate is hovering at just over 70%.

Why is the self-response rate lower than 2010 and how is it being addressed?

COVID-19: At the top of the list is the coronavirus pandemic, which has impacted every aspect of society. Like everything else, Census outreach events in the community were canceled.

  • In addition to social media and a robust web presence, County staff and volunteers have introduced low-tech, contactless methods to help people take the Census, including posting signs and banners in low-response areas and at free wi-fi spots.

  • Printed outreach materials include the Census web address, phone numbers for multiple language lines and a QR code residents can use to take the Census on their mobile devices.

Language barriers: In 2010, some Arlington residents received the Census form in Spanish, but only English forms were mailed in 2020.

  • Signs in English and five other languages have been planted around the County in areas where those languages are spoken.

Group quarters: Counting "group quarters," such as Fort Myer, assisted living communities, nursing homes, and other group living situations has been delayed by the pandemic.

  • The Census Bureau is expected to start counting those who live in group quarters in July.

Historically undercounted populations: Renters and young children are among several "hard-to-count" populations.

  • The County Manager and representatives of the County Board and the School Board have sent personalized letters to property managers, condo boards, civic association leaders and parents encouraging everyone to take the Census.

Why complete the Census?

Completing the Census helps guarantee that communities like ours will have enough money to fund public schools and transportation, childcare programs, food assistance programs, Medicaid, emergency planning and so much more. In recent months, Census data were used to provide funds for COVID-19 testing, economic assistance, and medical care.

The amount of federal funds communities receive for these and other programs is determined by how many people live there. If Arlington residents are undercounted in the Census, our community receives less money.

How to take the Census

Taking the Census is safe, easy, and only takes a few minutes. Here's how:

  • Online: Go to my2020census.gov. Non-English speakers can select a different language at the bottom of the page.

  • Phone: Call 844-330-2020 for English, 844-468-2020 for Spanish, or use these phone numbers to take the Census in 12 other languages.

  • Mail: If you received a paper copy by mail, just fill it out, place it in the envelope provided and drop it in a mailbox.

Already taken the Census? Please let everyone in your network know how important — and how easy — it is!


The U.S. Census counts every resident in the nation, including right here in Arlington County. As mandated by the U.S. Constitution, America gets just one chance each decade to count its population. The collected data help to determine things like the number of seats Virginia has in the House of Representatives, and how to distribute federal funds to local communities like ours.  Take the Census here.


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