It counts our population. How many of us are there? It seems like an easy question, and while big and expensive, the census seems pretty straightforward–it’s just a headcount, right? Yes, but it’s also notoriously difficult to count some parts of the population. How do you count the housing insecure population accurately? What about undocumented immigrants?
It’s Constitutionally mandated. We do the Census every ten years and at great national expense. Why? Because the Constitution says so. Over the years, the questions have shifted, language has changed, but what stays the same is every decade is that we undertake this enormous effort.
It drives our representation. Yeah, but really… Why? Because our representation is partially driven by our population. How many Congressional seats does each state get? How many electoral votes?
It answers core questions about the state of the population. Who are we? How are we doing? How have things changed? We try to get an accurate picture of who we are as a people right now, and how we’ve changed over the years.
It impacts funding. How much does our state get from the federal government for transportation, education, and health? A lot of it is per capita! So a good and accurate count impacts how much money we get, where it goes, and if it goes where it is needed.