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How We Conduct Our Surveys

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The Census Bureau will notify you in advance if you are in a survey, provide different ways to respond, and may follow up with you.

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The U.S. Census Bureau will send an official letter describing the survey for which your household or business has been selected and why your participation is important. This letter describes what the survey is, what type of questions will be asked, and what you can expect as a survey participant.

For household surveys, most mailings from the Census Bureau are addressed to “the resident of.” Household surveys from the Census Bureau are only mailed to residential addresses, not to P.O. Boxes. P.O. Boxes are not associated with specific addresses, so the Census Bureau cannot use them as a mailing destination.

If you receive a visit from a field representative, or interviewer, and have not yet received a notice from the Census Bureau, you can request one from the representative at your door. You may also contact the Census Bureau Regional Office for your state for more information.

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Depending on the survey, you may have different options for participating: online, by mail, in-person, or over the phone.

To learn more about how to respond to a particular survey, please refer to the informational materials you received. You can also visit the survey’s webpage.

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Online

Some surveys, such as the American Community Survey or the Economic Census, provide a web portal and secure login information so you can participate online.

To respond online, please refer to the login instructions you have received. You can also visit the survey’s webpage for more information.

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By mail

Few surveys still offer the option to be completed on paper. One notable example is the American Community Survey, which mails out paper forms to those who are unable to participate online.

If you receive a letter or a survey in the mail from the Census Bureau, the envelope contains certain information that may help you verify its legitimacy. For example:

  • U.S. Department of Commerce in the return address. This is the Census Bureau’s parent agency.
  • Jeffersonville, Indiana in the return address. Most census- and survey-related material gets mailed from, and returned to, our National Processing Center in Jeffersonville.

You may also receive a reminder letter from one of our Regional Offices or from the Census Bureau headquarters in the Washington, D.C. area.

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In-person

The Census Bureau has in-person interviewers, or field representatives, that visit survey participants at their address, whether it is a house, an apartment, a gated community, or a secure building. If the Census Bureau comes to your door, we are there on official government business, the same as a postal carrier, a fireman, or a police officer.

If we do not find you at home, we may leave a note and business card or call you to provide a brief explanation that we stopped by and how to reach us.

In the case of the American Community Survey, if we do not receive your completed form in the mail or online, you might receive a personal visit from a Census Bureau field representative.

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By phone

Several surveys, such as the American Time Use Survey, are conducted by phone. The Census Bureau uses publicly available telephone directories to call survey participants. Because we are contacting you on official government business, the Census Bureau is not subject to the “Do Not Call” list restrictions.

If you are unable to complete a survey in person, you may have the option to complete it by phone and at your convenience. Visit the survey page for more information.

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Other

Some of our business surveys can be completed and then sent in by fax. For more information, please refer to the mailings you have received or visit the survey webpage.

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The Census Bureau may follow up with you regarding your participation in a survey. Follow-up can occur in-person, via mail, or by phone. There may be brief questions regarding the answers you provided or as a quality assurance check for your experience participating in a survey. We may also follow up with you if we have not yet heard from you.

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