Commentary: If you want to support your city's welfare, start by filling in your Census responses

By Mayor Martin J. Walsh

Every 10 years, the federal government conducts a Census that is aimed at counting every person living in all 50 states, Washington D.C., and the five US territories. This is more than just a head count; the Census determines everything from representation in Congress, to federal funding for schools, affordable housing, infrastructure, and healthcare programs.

As Boston continues to respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency and work toward an equitable recovery, federal funding will play a key role in providing relief for our small business owners, veterans, renters, our healthcare sector, and more. Much of the recovery aid that Washington will allocate is based on our population’s size as determined by the Census. Filling out the 2020 Census is a great way to support healthcare workers, first responders, and other people on the front lines from the safety of your home. It will also help Boston respond to future emergencies by increasing data accuracy and federal dollars for community health centers and hospitals.

Data from the 2010 Census show that for every Massachusetts resident who doesn’t fill out the Census, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts misses out on more than $2,300 in federal funding. That’s a significant loss for our communities, including our students, our older adults, our residents experiencing homelessness, and other vulnerable groups. In 2015, Massachusetts received more than $16 billion for crucial programs and services such as Medicaid and Medicare, SNAP and free school lunch programs, Section 8 Vouchers, public education, and childcare programs for low-income families like Head Start. We need everyone in the city to participate in this year’s Census so we can continue to support and improve these programs.

Many of Boston’s communities are at risk of an undercount. Almost 60 percent of the city’s population lives in census tracts that have historically been undercounted, and this year, we want to change that. The Census is a means to increase community power. Boston recognizes how vital each resident is to our social fabric, and the 2020 Census will make sure the federal government does, too.  

I want to assure everyone in Boston that responses to the 2020 Census are safe, secure, and protected by federal law. Answers can only be used to produce statistics, and the Census Bureau cannot share your personal information with anyone – not to law enforcement, and not to your landlord. You will not be asked about your immigration status, and answers will not affect any public benefits you receive.

The Census is very easy to complete. It only takes a few minutes to fill out the questionnaire online at You can also fill it out over the phone in 13 different languages. The phone number is listed on the website. Everyone counts equally in our democracy, and everyone deserves to be seen, heard, and invested in, regardless of your age, background, housing status, how much money you make, where you were born, or any other characteristic. The 2020 Census is an example of direct democracy in action, and I urge all Bostonians to take part.

Martin J. Walsh is mayor of Boston.