The 2020 U.S. census, which launches in Alaska this month, will be the 24th since the nation’s birth and the U.S. government’s largest peacetime undertaking. It’s also the only federal activity that invites every U.S. resident – citizen and noncitizen alike – to participate.

The census is a complicated, crucial task unlike any other, with many challenges that include growing public reluctance to answer surveys. This time around, the Census Bureau will ask most people to respond online, a big change from the past. The resulting numbers will guide political decisions, federal funding and research for the next decade.

Try our email course on the U.S. census

Learn about why and how the U.S. census is conducted through five short lessons delivered to your inbox every other day.
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So how do you untangle such a knotty topic? By signing up for our five-part email mini-course about the 2020 census! You’ll receive an email every few days over the span of a couple of weeks. As with all of Pew Research Center’s work, it’s free. (We launched our first mini-course in 2018, about current, historic and future immigration into the U.S.)

Each email will be a lesson answering a question about the census and census-taking: What is the census and why do we conduct one? How is the census taken? What’s new and potentially challenging in 2020? How have census questions and procedures changed throughout history? And what stories can we expect the 2020 census numbers to tell?

We want to make it easy for you to understand the past, present and future of the U.S. census. But if you want to dig deeper, the emails will offer links to more detailed information from Pew Research Center, the Census Bureau and other sources.

You can sign up to take the course here. We hope you get a lot out of it! A short quiz at the end will help you see what you’ve learned. And please tell us what you think by emailing us at minicourses@pewresearch.org.