Why a Census?

In the United States Constitution (Article One, Section 2), the Congress is directed to carry out a census, it states:

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within.this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.


Apportionment is the process of distributing the 435 seats in the House of Representatives among the 50 states.  This occurs every ten years via the Census population count from each state.  The results are used to adjust or redraw electoral districts based on where populations have increased or decreased as people have migrated from state to state. Exploring the 2020 Census apportionment will provide more insight on state representation until 2030.

Census Data Affects Federal Funding

According to the Census, hundreds of billions of dollars are allocated utilizing Census data to fund over 100 programs including programs like Medicaid, Head Start, block grant programs for community mental health services, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP.  Hotchkiss and Phelan (2017) found that 132 federal programs used Census Bureau data to distribute over $75 billion in funds during the 2015 fiscal year.

Prev Next