About the Census

The decennial census is a national survey conducted every ten years by the United States Government. It is the largest mobilization operation conducted in the United States and requires years of planning and research to ensure an accurate and complete count.

Data collected from the survey is used to determine a variety of things, including but not limited to:

  • The distribution of Congressional seats in the United States House of Representatives (i.e. if a state gains or loses a Congressional seat)
  • How to redistrict states
  • How to allocate federal funds to states, which directly impacts communities


  • Residents use the census to support community initiatives involving legislation, quality of life, and consumer advocacy.
  • Businesses use the data to decide where to build factories, offices, and stores, creating jobs.
  • Local government officials use the census to ensure public safety and plan new schools and hospitals.
  • Real estate developers and city planners use census data to plan for the develop of new homes and revitalize old neighborhoods.

An accurate count by the census contributes to good policy because census data can help identify demographic trends early, giving legislators time to address future needs and craft solutions. The data also helps to keep a historical record of demographic information.

The next census in 2020 will require counting an increasingly diverse and growing population of around 330 million people in more than 140 million housing units. In order to get an accurate count, the United States Census Bureau must build an accurate address list of every housing unit, maximize self-response to the census, and efficiently follow up with those who do not respond.

The mission of the United States Census Bureau is “to serve as the nation’s leading provider of quality data about its people and economy”.

The census aims to count the entire population of a country and the location where each person lives. The census asks questions such as current home and group living situations, how many people live or stay in each home, and the sex, age, and race of each person. The goal is to count everyone once, only once, and in the right place.

The first census took place in 1790, more than a year after the inauguration of President George Washington. The then Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, directed the effort, which called for questions on gender, race, relationship to the head of household, name of the head of household, and number of slaves, if any.

The United States Constitution has mandated a decennial census in Article I, Section 2, stating “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the Several States…according to their respective Numbers…”

To learn more about the 2020 Census, visit: https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/decennial-census/decade/2020/2020-census-main.html

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