WHY IS THE CENSUS IMPORTANT?
The number of congressional districts in a state may shift based on increases or decreases in population over the previous decade, which affects congressional representation and state electoral votes. This reapportionment of seats in the House of Representatives and resulting change in electoral votes helps dictate the geographic shift in political power within the United States.
Over the past decades, congressional seats have primarily been lost in the Northeast and Midwest and reapportioned to the South and West of the country. This trend is expected to continue as the population is projected to steadily increase in the South and West parts of the United States.
Click HERE for more information on reapportionment after the 2010 election and projected shifts for 2020.
Within states, the congressional and state legislature districts are redrawn based on Census data. Based on population distribution changes within states, the boundaries must shift every ten years in order to ensure each district has roughly the same population.
In most states, including Minnesota, the state legislature draws the district lines. This can present issues with partisan influence, leading to unfair districts through gerrymandering . Some states have moved toward advisory or independent committees in order to reduce partisan motivation in the redistricting process.
The Census provides a snapshot of country, state, local areas, and on a broad level defines who we are as a nation. Demographic data helps groups from all parts of society use census information to decide where to direct their attention and resources. The census helps these groups identify areas in need of certain services, businesses, civil rights outreach, community engagement, etc.
For instance, a group advocating for ballots and voter information to be printed in languages other than English may use census data to locate populations likely to primarily speak a non-English language. Given the racial disparity in the history of voting rights, the demographic data provided by the Census is extremely important in protecting these rights.
Over $400 billion per year is allocated throughout the nation with help from census data, including programs such as public health, education and infrastructure. State and local funds are often distributed based on population, meaning that every person is important when advocating for funding. The strength of census statistics and data also helps inform many public policy proposals at all levels of government.
If it isn’t clear already, the answer to this question is: everyone. Every person living in the United States and its territories is of interest for the Census Bureau. Unlike other surveys that use a representative sample of the population, the Census aims to directly contact all people to create the most accurate count of the American population.
People who are not citizens or are not living in a traditional home are still counted as accurately as possible by the Census. As seen in the sample form above, the Census does not ask respondents about their immigration status. Some of these non-traditional groups counted include:
- Undocumented Residents
- People experiencing homelessness
- People in prison
- Population Living Abroad
Census questionnaires mailed to all U.S. households, and people will be asked to respond corresponding to their information based on a particular day in the year. Each person is counted at the location where they sleep most nights of the year in order to account for people who have moved, college students, and those who travel frequently.
A second mailing is sent if the first is not returned. However, if neither mailing is returned, a census worker visits the address to gather data. Census workers also attempt to contact the population that does not have a known address.
The collected information is kept completely confidential by the Census Bureau and cannot be disclosed for 72 years. This policy helps ensure the accuracy of the data, as some people may be hesitant to disclose some of the information if they thought other government agencies or outside parties could access their personal data.