A census is a survey designed by the government to establish demographic information, particularly regarding population. Citizens are asked to submit a response to a number of questions concerning employment, economic standing, age, race, etc. The U.S census is conducted every 10 years, e.g. 2000, 2010, 2020.
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What is a Census?
According to the U.S Census Bureau, the data collected by a census is used to determine each state's Congressional seats, to make decisions about community services, and to allocate £195 billion in federal funds intended for the local level. In the United States, the official census is conducted every 10 years. For confidentiality purposes, exact census data is kept sealed for 72 years.
In addition to determining Congressional representation, the population information collected by the U.S census is used to determine the necessary funds for states and local communities. It can be used to decide the locations of schools, libraries, road service, and other essential facilities. Census data is often used when conducting research, particularly in genealogical inquiries. Sociologists use census information when conducting studies.
History of the Census
The census function dates as far back as 3340 B.C. in Egypt. The census was also documented by India, Rome, and China, the earliest census data coming from the Han Dynasty in 2 A.D. The census tradition carried on through the Middle Ages into modernity. The first official census in the United States took place in 1790. A permanent Census Office was established in 1802. William Augustus Weaver was appointed the first superintendent clerk of the census in 1840 by Secretary of State John Forsythe. The first director of the official U.S Census Office was William Rush Merriam in 1902.
Census Criticism and Controversy
In 1990 the U.S census was criticised for undercounting homeless and minority populations, an issue which is ongoing as of 2009. It is estimated that the U.S census conducted in 2000 undercounted the population by as much as 3.3 million people, mostly minorities. The media reported underfunding and technological delays in anticipation of the 2010 census, corroborated to some extent by the sudden decision of No. 2 Census Bureau official Preston Jay Waite to retire in April 2008.
Census Questions Asked
Participants in the U.S census are asked to fill out either a "long" form or a "short" form in response. The long form is given to about one out of six households. The short form typically asks about the age, sex, race, household make-up, and economic status of the respondent. The long form asks more specific questions about education, ancestry, employment, disability, and home heating fuel. The census questions are determined by representatives from more than 100 federal programs including Unemployment Insurance, Highway Planning and Construction, and Medicaid.
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