Since 1790, the federal government has taken a count of the United States population every 10 years to gain an accurate picture of our ever-changing demographics. The 2020 count was expected to be no different. Plans for an online count, the first of its kind, were moving forward, and field operations were readying to assist people at their homes. Fast forward to today, and we know that much has changed- dates have been extended and field operations are taking extra safety precautions. But, despite the many complications of 2020, the count continues with a new deadline of October 31, 2020 (https://my2020census.gov/).
Why is the census important? The main purpose of the count is to determine how many seats each state receives in the U.S. House of Representatives, how more than $675 billion in federal resources will be distributed, and how congressional district boundaries are drawn. Completing the census doesn’t just mean you are living in the United States, it means that you are counted in your government. How else is census data important?
Census data helps determine funding for critical community health assets like hospitals, clinics and food banks. Census data also informs decisions on Medicare, Medicaid and nutrition program funding.
Many 9-1-1 emergency systems are based on census maps. And, through using these maps, health care professionals can predict the spread of disease in communities with higher risk populations, like older people or young children.
An accurate census count can benefit your favorite nonprofit too. Billions in federal funding for programs such as school nutrition, housing and health care will be determined by the outcome of the census, making it imperative to get an accurate count in historically undercounted populations.
Businesses can use census data to strategize their operations, expand and succeed. For example, real estate companies can determine housing demands, retail stores can analyze demographic shifts, and small business owners can find new customers and decide where to open additional locations.
Census data can help community planners track changing demographics, such as age, ethnicity and renter and ownership rates. Such data can also determine traffic patterns or the need for more parks, hospitals and roads.
Census data can be used to reconstruct your family tree- since data becomes public after 72 years, it can help with genealogy research.
The census is much more than a head count. It is a tool to ensure that representation and funding is addressing changing community needs. Despite our current challenges, it is easier than ever to complete the census online or by phone. Make a difference in your community- be counted today (https://my2020census.gov/).