The United States Constitution mandates that a census be taken every ten years. The last census was taken in 2010. Beginning in March of this year, the census has been available for households to complete.
What Is the Census?
The census is a count of all people living in the United States and five U.S. territories ( American Samoa, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico). The count is conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. Households can complete the census via a short questionnaire online, by mail, or by phone.
How the Census Data Is Used
The information collected during the census is for statistical purposes only, and everyone living in the U.S. and its five territories is required by law to be counted. The census figures are used to calculate the number of seats each state has in the House of Representatives as well as to draw congressional and state legislative districts.
Data collected during the census is used in numerous ways by businesses, lawmakers, and other institutions to make decisions and allocate resources and funding. The census can show where new hospitals, schools, and other community services are needed. The allocation of federal funds is often determined by census statistics as well. Funding of over 100 programs, including Head Start, Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and block grants for community mental health services, depend on accurate completion of the census.
Locally, census figures can help communities prepare for and respond to natural disasters, determine public transit needs, and influence highway planning and construction, among other things.
The census informs not only local government, legislators, and businesses, but also to researchers. The census provides a wealth of indispensable data for social scientists who study our society, economy, housing availability, the workforce, and population distribution. By comparing past census information, they can see how populations have changed over time.
With so much riding on the census, we all must do our part to ensure its accurate completion. If your household hasn’t already received an invitation to respond, you can still do so by going online to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020Census.gov website or calling 844-330-2020.