Breaking News
More () »

VERIFY: Is this $5-filled survey from the U.S. Census Bureau legit?

A viewer received a fishy mailer stuffed with 5 bucks and asked the Verify team if the survey--with Census Bureau signage--was real or fake.
Credit: WUSA


Is this $5-filled survey from the U.S. Census Bureau legit? Is it part of the 2020 census?


Yes, the survey is legit. It is sent via the Census Bureau and administered by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, part of the Health Resources & Services Administration, an agency withing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 


Martin Kramer- Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) Director of Communications

HRSA Maternal & Child Health FAQ

HRSA Maternal & Child Health FAQ 2017 survey

U.S. Census Bureau

Center for Disease Control and Prevention


A viewer from Crystal City, Virginia received a letter in the mail that immediately made her suspicious. 

She emailed the Verify team:

"I recently received an English/Spanish snail mail and $5 bill (!) from what is presented as the Census Bureau at Commerce. The letter stated my household was selected randomly and requested participation in the online "National Survey of Children's Health." Is this part of the much-debated 2020 Census? ...With all the census suspicion these days I am curious what is driving this, and what exactly the data being collected (with a $5 incentive of taxpayer dollars?) is going to be used for...is it legit, recurring, why now with the big census looming...what's it all about?"

Credit: WUSA
Credit: WUSA

So is this letter real or a scam?

Our Verify researchers contacted the U.S. Census Bureau, who said the letter is legit.

The survey is from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, which is part of the Health Resources & Services Administration within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The survey is trying to collect 2019 data on the physical and emotional health of children in the U.S. That data is used to help other health agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"The questions were developed by child health experts across the US., including from the federal and state governments, academia, and family leaders," Martin Kramer, spokesperson for HRSA, said. "The questions are always tested before inclusion in the survey."

So it’s not part of the 2020 Census and responding is optional.

"Your participation is very important because each person who answers the survey represents thousands of others. Not participating in the survey may mean that children like yours or those in your community will not be represented in the results," HRSA writes. "Even if there are no children in the home, we still need you to respond so that we can get accurate information about the number of children living in the United States."

The letter does includes a small cash incentive, because research shows incentives reduce the overall cost of the survey because they don’t have to send multiple letters trying to get you to respond.

So we can Verify, yes, this mailer is a legit government survey used for research, but it is not the official 2020 census.

Download the brand new WUSA9 app here.

Sign up for the Get Up DC newsletter: Your forecast. Your commute. Your news.

Before You Leave, Check This Out