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Civics 101: Census

Posted by on May 18th, 2020 Posted in: Blog
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United States Census 2020 logo

2020 is a Census year! For a lot of people, the Census is something they do every ten years and then they don’t think about it again until it’s time to fill out the survey again.  But for people who work in public policy, who are interested in politics or who work for local, state and federal agencies, the Census can be a big deal.

What is the Census and why do we do it?

Article 1 Section 2 of the US Constitution outlines the need to count everyone in the US every ten years to evenly distribute the members of the House of Representatives based on the population.

How does the census work?

  • People are asked to respond online, by phone or return the paper form sent through the mail.
  • The Census Bureau will start following up with households that haven’t responded through door to door interviews conducted by Census workers.
  • Avoid scams and know how to identify Census takers.

What does the Census tell us?

The Census looks to count everyone in the United States.  The basic Census survey asks questions about how many people and who lives in your household to collect basic demographic (sex, age, race) information.

Every year the Census Bureau also conducts Household Surveys that tell us more about things like health, housing, education and employment.  Households and businesses are randomly selected to participate in these additional surveys that give a snapshot on the US population.  Learn more about Household Surveys.

How does the Census affect the work we do at NNLM NER?

Many federal funds are allocated based on Census information including for social service programs, health related programs such as Medicaid, mental health services and even funds for local and state health departments.

  • Funding for many of our partners may be impacted by Census information including funding for schools, hospitals and more.
  • Learn more about how Census data has been used to distribute money to organizations in your communities.

Census data is also the basis for many health needs’ assessments. Learn more about Using Census Data from the SCR Connections webinar held September 2018.

Census data is used to support your community, so help your community respond.

Image of the author ABOUT Sarah Levin-Lederer


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NNLM New England Region
University of Massachusetts Medical School
55 Lake Avenue North
Worcester, MA 01655
(508) 856-5985

This has been funded in whole or in part with Federal funds from the Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, under cooperative agreement number UG4LM012347 with the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

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