Monitoring a Fundamental American Institution

The 2020 Census is incredibly vital to the future of American democracy. The Decennial Census is the basis for which seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are decided and how billions of dollars of the federal budget are allocated. Artificially low or high numbers of responses relative to the actual population can result in states gaining or losing representation in a core element of American democracy and communities not receiving the vital resources they need. Given the significant disruption to American society from COVID-19, there are new concerns this year that this disruption will affect the count of the 2020 Census. Thus, the CensusTracker team has developed a dynamic map displaying the 2020 Census self-response rates, both in absolute terms and relative to the self-response rates of the 2010 Census. These tools are designed to be used by policy makers, advocacy groups, journalists, and other stakeholders to monitor, observe, and analyze the ongoing response rates of the 2020 Census in every community across America. (Note: Response rates displayed are self response rates, which differ slightly from total response rates. Total response rates are published at the state level only, and can be accessed here)

How to use CensusTracker

The CensusTracker maps have three major methods of interaction:

  1. The demographic measures (widgets) can be configured to only show data of a specific range. To do so, click and drag across the histogram to set the range. The range may then be adjusted by dragging the edges of the range you created.
  2. Each demographic measure may also be turned into a heatmap of that demographic by clicking the "raindrop" icon in the top right corner of the widget. This can be undone by doing the same or reloading.
  3. Any individual county's data may be measured by hovering over or clicking on it.

Please note that the CensusTracker is using current 2020 Census self-response data which is available at the county-level at https://www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/decennial/2020/data/2020map/2020/ This is lower than the Enumeration rate which includes follow-up by census takers to non-response households and is available at the state-level at https://2020census.gov/en/response-rates/nrfu.html

2020 Census self-response rate data as of 8/28/2020.

Examples of demographic impact on 2020 Census response rates

Example 1: Counties with majority Black respondents

Counties - Majority African American

Example 2: Counties where median household income is over $110k

Counties - Median household income above $100k

Example 3: Counties with Over 1.9k COVID cases per 100k

Counties - Unemployment Above 10.3%


  1. Self-Response Rate Data, 2020 Census: https://www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/decennial/2020/data/2020map/2020/
  2. Participation Rate Data, 2010 and 2000 Census: https://www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/decennial/2010/data/participation-rates-states/
  3. Demographic Data, General: American Community Survey, 2018: https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/
  4. COVID-19 Data, USAfacts.org: https://usafacts.org/visualizations/coronavirus-covid-19-spread-map/
  5. Election data from opendatasoft: https://data.opendatasoft.com/explore/dataset/usa-2016-presidential-election-by-county%40public/export/?disjunctive.state
  6. Unemployment rate data, Bureau of Labor Statistics: https://www.bls.gov/lau/

Who are we?

Colin McGinn profile image

Colin McGinn

Project Developer of CensusTracker

Colin McGinn is an undergraduate at Harvard University, currently concentrating in Government with a secondary in Computer Science.

Jinyan Zang profile image

Jinyan Zang

Project Manager of CensusTracker

Research and Project Manager of the Public Interest Tech Lab

Jinyan Zang is a PhD Candidate in Government at Harvard University and a 2017 recipient of the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans. He is the Managing Editor of the Journal of Technology Science. He is an experienced researcher on consumer protection, data and election security, and privacy issues as a Research Fellow at the Federal Trade Commission and a Research Analyst at Harvard University’s Data Privacy Lab and at the Institute for Quantitative Social Science. He graduated cum laude in 2013 from Harvard College with a B.A. in Economics.

Latanya Sweeney profile image

Prof. Latanya Sweeney

Faculty Director of the Public Interest Tech Lab

As Professor of the Practice of Government and Technology at the Harvard Kennedy School and in the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Department of Government, my mission is create and use technology to assess and solve societal, political and governance problems, and to teach others how to do the same. The scientific study of technology's impact on humankind, is termed technology science and I am the founding Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Technology Science.