information compiled from the US Census Bureau
LANSING, Ill. (November 26, 2019) – The census tells us much more than just the population of our country, our states, and our communities. The census produces a wide range of statistics about the makeup of those populations, from ages and races to how many people own their home. Those statistics inform decisions made by local business owners, faraway politicians, and families moving in and out of a community. The data gathered once a decade helps determine how billions of dollars in federal funding flow into states and communities each year.
US Census Bureau data helps communities respond effectively to natural disasters. Recovery organizations such as FEMA use census data to tailor their efforts to the people, homes, and businesses in each affected area. In the 2017 hurricane season, knowing that 22 percent of the people in ZIP code 77565 (a coastal ZIP south of Seabrook, Texas) or 86 percent of the population in 77011 (just east of Houston) speak Spanish as their primary language helped emergency management officials deploy specific resources and staff to areas that needed them most.
Census data helps older Americans afford housing. In King County, Washington, a newly appointed assessor used data to give property tax breaks to older homeowners. His team analyzed census data and found there were 40,000 households eligible for the tax exemption, but only 15,000 households were actually enrolled in the program. The team then put together an outreach plan based on the data with the goal to increase enrollment. After 18 months, the assessor’s department brought in almost 7,500 new applications from potentially eligible seniors and disabled homeowners.
Census data is also important for a community’s economic development. Entrepreneurs seek out current information on the economic conditions as part of their business initiation plans. Existing business owners rely on census results to help make decisions such as where to open new stores, where to expand operations, and which products and services to offer. Policymakers use data to decide how to best promote new businesses and what can attract new startups to a region and make them thrive. And researchers can use data on business formation activity to enrich their understanding of business cycles and economic conditions.
And census data determines how communities and states are represented in our federal government as well. The US Constitution requires that electoral districts be periodically adjusted or redrawn to account for population shifts. Each decade, the census reveals where populations have risen or fallen. State legislatures or independent bipartisan commissions handle the process of redrawing congressional district lines. The US Census Bureau provides population counts to the states for this purpose.
This once-a-decade census data helps businesses, researchers, and communities make decisions. The data can help inform where Lansing needs a new fire department, more funding for school lunches, or new roads. An accurate count is critical for communities like Lansing.
The 2020 Census marks the first time that people will be able to respond to the census online. The link below allows people to sign up for updates via email and receive a reminder when it’s time to complete the 2020 Census: