Counting For Dollars: Why It Matters

A fair and accurate 2020 Census is important for many reasons. The census is the basis for equal political representation under the Constitution. Policymakers use census data to identify community needs and to distribute federal program dollars to states and localities based on population numbers or other community characteristics that the census and related American Community Survey measure. Business and industry decide where to locate new plants and services based on census data, creating new jobs and promoting economic growth.

Sometimes, federal dollars are allotted to the states based on the number of people counted in the census; Medicaid is an example. In other cases, census numbers determine if a community is eligible for critical federal program dollars. Examples include city and county population thresholds (50,000 or 200,000) for Community Development Block Grants, and rural area designations for Rural Electrification loans. Still other programs allocate funds based on certain household characteristics, such as average or median income levels.

Therefore, each person counted may directly determine funding levels for a few programs, and will influence funding levels for many others.