What is the U.S. Census?

Every 10 years, the United States counts every person living in the country to determine the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives (a process called apportionment) and also to distribute billions of dollars in federal funds to local communities.

Five Reasons to Complete the 2020 Census

1. The census determines where resources go — and don’t go.

Policymakers use census data — both the total population count and population characteristics — to allocate about 1.5 trillion federal dollars to the states. These funds fuel more than 300 programs, such as Head Start, Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. A census undercount would leave these programs underfunded — and unable to meet the needs of kids, families and communities across the nation.

2. The census impacts political pull.

In the U.S. House of Representatives, each state’s population count informs its seat count. The government relies on decennial census data — more specifically, the total number of citizens, noncitizens and overseas federal employees in each state — to divvy up these seats and ensure a fair apportioning of political power among all 50 states.

Census data also shape the political landscape within states by informing the boundaries of local school, voting and legislative districts.

3. The census helps communities plan for the future.

Communities — city planners, businesses, real estate developers and policymakers — review census data to better understand the needs of local residents and neighborhoods. Leaders then use this information to plot how and where their communities must evolve. The resulting changes are wide-ranging — from new schools and better business incentives to extra bus routes and public safety improvements. Flawed census data, on the other hand, can have real and lasting consequences, such as overcrowded classrooms, unsafe roads and overflowing emergency rooms.

4. The census is the statistical foundation of Casey’s KIDS COUNT efforts.

Casey’s KIDS COUNT Data Center and annual Data Book are powerful decision-making tools for policymakers, child and family advocates, nonprofits and educators. Both products track five key areas of child well-being: 1) economic well-being; 2) health; 3) safety; 4) family and community; and 5) education. These five areas are largely defined by statistics directly derived from census data or calculated using census data.

The Casey Foundation then uses this information to identify serious inequities and advocate for change. For instance: An accurate census count enables Casey to enforce civil rights laws in areas such as education, housing, the workplace and criminal justice and to ensure that communities secure — or gain back — the representation and voice that they deserve.

5. The census informs other research efforts.

A number of federal surveys rely on census data. These include the American Community Survey, Current Population Survey, Consumer Expenditure Survey, National Center for Educational Statistics and National Center for Health Statistics.

Consequently, a number of federally produced statistics also rely on census data, including national unemployment and crime rates, births, deaths, school performance measures and Consumer Price Index calculations.

The Casey Foundation will be spending the next several and beyond urging every household to turn in their census form. Please go to www.2020census.gov and fill out the 2020 census online.