Census 2020 and Gender

Question #3 on the 2020 US Census will ask respondents to state their sex. While the question hasn’t changed since it was first included in the census in 1790, the lived experiences of many Americans have. Not everyone identifies with the binary choices provided by the census, and the census conflates and confuses sex and gender. 

How do you answer the question when the answers don’t fit?

Oakland Public LIbrary’s Gender Identity and Diversity Task Force has been asking questions and gathering resources in order to help library patrons make an informed decision about answering this question.
Find a printable version of this information here.

What happens if you answer the  question by selecting the sex you were assigned at birth?
You will be counted in the Census. An intentionally false answer carries a $500 potential fine. Depending on your legal gender, this could be seen as “false” by the Census Bureau. The Census Bureau does not cross-check data with any other personally identifiable information provided on other documents, including birth certificates and driver’s licenses. In addition, it appears that no one has ever been fined for this.

What happens if you answer question by selecting the sex or gender you live as, if either of the options fit your lived gender?
You will be counted in the Census. An intentionally false answer carries a $500 potential fine. Depending on your legal gender, this could be seen as “false” by the Census Bureau. The Census Bureau does not cross-check data with any other personally identifiable information provided on other documents, including birth certificates and driver’s licenses. In addition, it appears that no one has ever been fined for this.

What happens if you leave the question blank?
You will likely still be counted in the Census. Not fully completing the Census may lead to a call or an in-person visit to your home by workers from the Census Bureau, following up on the question(s) left blank. Willfully leaving a question blank carries a $100 potential fine. It is unlikely, but possible that a single blank question will lead to follow-up. The more blank questions, the more probable that there will be follow-up. The Bureau does commonly process incomplete surveys. In addition, It appears that no one has ever been fined for this

What happens if you do not complete the Census at all?
You will not be counted in the Census. The lgbtq+ community is a traditionally undercounted community. Being counted helps ensure the community’s fair access to democracy and social services funding. Not filling out the Census carries a potential $5000 fine. You will almost certainly get a follow-up call or visit from the Census Bureau. The US government has not prosecuted anyone for failing to participate in the Census since 1970. 

The same information presented in chart form (as an image):

Note: The Census Bureau is legally bound to strict confidentiality requirements. By law, respondents’ answers can not be shared with anyone, including any other government agency.

Information sources: The United States Census Bureau, National LGBTQ Task Force, Politifact

For Further Reading

Census.gov 

Advocacy Organizations

Individual Writings on the Topic (not by library staff, but found online)