“Shape your future. START HERE.”
This catchy tagline was rolled out by the U.S. Census Bureau in March 2019 to advertise the 2020 Census, with the goal of increasing awareness and participation.
A census is a nationwide survey to gather information about a country’s population. In the United States, it is conducted once every ten years. It asks questions such as: “how many people live in your house?” and “what is your race?”
Everyone living in the U.S. is required to take the census, regardless of whether he or she is a citizen.
The First Census
The first U.S. census was taken in 1790, during George Washington’s term.
Marshals in the original 13 states and the districts of Kentucky, Maine, Vermont, and the Southwest Territory hired around 650 assistants to go to each house to count the number of people living there. The census had only six questions about each household, mostly about the number of people in different categories.
Only 3.9 million Americans were counted in the first census. President Washington and other government officials thought this was an undercount and dismissed it because they were afraid that European countries would think the U.S. was small and weak.
Why Is It Important?
The census helps the government better understand the people living in a specific region or community of the country and their needs. The government uses this information to allocate federal funds and resources. This way, instead of giving every city the same amount of money, the government can give more money to the communities that need it more.
Aside from the federal government, many people use census data to benefit their communities.
- Businesses use the census to decide the best places to open a store or build a factory, creating jobs for people in the community.
- Local and state governments use the data to help them with projects such as constructing roads or schools.
- Community organizations use the census to improve social services programs, and developers use it to determine where to build houses or find neighborhoods that need to be revitalized.
- Health providers use the data to predict how a disease will spread throughout an area.
A population count is also necessary to determine the number of representatives from each state in the House of Representatives and to draw congressional and state legislative districts.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year will be the first year that the census can be filled out online. The survey can be found on the Census 2020 website and the deadline is August 14th.
There are concerns that this year’s census may have inaccurate results. Many people may forget the census because they are staying at home and door-to-door census takers can’t make sure that everyone takes the survey. Additionally, some might not have access to electronic devices or the internet at home.
If you know friends and family who have access to electronics and the internet, encourage them to fill out the census. It only takes around ten minutes but will make an impact on your community!
Sources: Census.gov, 2020census.gov, history.com, howstuffworks.com