March 24, 2020

Why the 2020 U.S. Census Data Matters

The census affects our lives in ways that many of us may not recognize—in school, at work, and across our community. Given its implications for each member of our society, an accurate count on the decennial census is imperative. The U.S. census, one of the few in the world to directly count every resident, is used to distribute political power as well as federal funding. Responding to the 2020 Census is vital to our country’s ability to make critical decisions.

The census compiles biographical data on the U.S. population, logging characteristics of each individual. The data is used as the basis for distributing seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and in various state legislatures.

It is also used to determine the distribution of nearly $900 billion for federally-funded programs, which are apportioned based on an area’s population, income, age, and other factors. These include some of the country’s largest spending programs including Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps, Section 8 housing vouchers, Pell Grants for students, and highway construction and maintenance. Private firms also use census data to identify potential investment opportunities or target new customers.

The U.S. Census is required by Article 1, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution which states that an “actual enumeration of the population must take place every ten years.” This has happened every decade since 1790.

The 2020 Census has migrated to an online questionnaire. So, be sure to watch for invitations in the mail with a special number to use online and fill out the form. Those invitations started going out in March. Households that do not fill out the census online will receive paper questionnaires in the mail. The Census Bureau will send employees to hand-deliver letters to the 5 percent of households that are unable to receive mail.

In short, make your participation in the 2020 U.S. Census count. The data is critical to so many things impacting our daily lives.