The Census is mandated by the constitution as a part of our country’s founders’ ambition to ensure a representative government. The results of the Census will affect individuals over the coming decade until the next count is done and in addition to its longevity, the count matters in a number of other ways.
The Count Determines Hundreds of Billions of Funding
An estimated $675 to $900 billion dollars in federal funding on infrastructure and programs is allocated based on data collected by the Census. This funding includes public schools, hospitals, roads, and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). Cities and local governments utilize the data for emergency planning and urban development, and private businesses utilize Census data to make decisions about operations. This can include where they might build offices or factories and launch new products. Similarly, nonprofits and public agencies offer services to communities based on identified areas of need utilizing the collected population data. An accurate count ensures appropriate funding to your community.
The Count Determines Congressional Representation
The number of individuals counted in each area determines the number of representatives each state will have in the House of Representatives. The Census data is also utilized to draw or adjust districting lines for state legislatures and Congress based on where populations have increased or decreased. Importantly, the representation also determines the number of delegates a state will have in the Electoral College. These are critical uses of the data that need to reflect the diversity of our communities and ensure that they are represented in our local, state, and federal government.
The Count Needs to include Hard-to-Count Populations
There are a number of populations that are historically underrepresented and ‘difficult to count’ in the Census. This includes those that are difficult to reach such as individuals experiencing homelessness or those displaced by disasters, as well as certain groupings of individuals that distrust the Census or government entities. This may include new immigrants or individuals with limited or no English language proficiency. Unfortunately, these populations are also often the populations that may most benefit from federal programs and funding. An undercount therefore limits the dollars available to these in-need communities. The juxtaposition is part of our systemic breakdown and issues when addressing equity and social justice for all.
The Count is for Demographic Purposes Only
The Census data collected is not supplied to Immigration and Customs Enforcement regarding an individual’s citizenship status. The efforts to include a citizenship question in the 2020 Census was dismissed by the courts and is not reflected in the questionnaires. Similarly, data collected is confidential and aggregated to show trends and decade-over-decade differences. While other statistical questions have changed over the years, the total number of individuals residing at an address, or ‘the count’, has always been a core part of the Census’ purpose.
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