Why Is the Census Important?
Participating in the census is in everyone's best interest, because the information on the forms is used by decision-makers to determine which communities, schools, hospitals and roads need federal funding. Filling out your census form is also the best way to make sure people like you are represented in the census.
Here are just a few examples of important uses for census numbers:
- The federal government uses census numbers to allocate over $100 billion in federal funds annually for community programs and services, such as education programs, housing and community development, health-care services for the elderly, job training and many more.
- State, local and tribal governments use census information for planning and allocating funds for new school construction, libraries and other public buildings, highway safety and public transportation systems, new roads and bridges, location of police and fire departments and many other projects.
- Community organizations use census information to develop social service programs, community action projects, senior lunch programs and child-care centers.
- Businesses use the numbers to decide where to locate factories, shopping centers, movie theaters, banks and offices -- activities that often lead to new jobs.
- The U.S. Congress uses the census totals to determine how many seats your state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives. In addition, states use the numbers to allocate seats in their law-making bodies. President Clinton will deliver the apportionment counts to the 107th Congress during the first week of its regular session in January 2000. The reapportioned Congress, which will be the 108th, will convene in January 2003. This reapportionment of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives could have important political implications.
All that we learn about ourselves through the census will help the United States succeed over the next millennium. It's also a great way to tell our leaders who we are and what we need. If you need a closer-to-home reason for completing your census form, the Census Bureau suggests that you consider the following:
- You can help your community thrive. Does your neighborhood have a lot of traffic congestion, elderly people living alone or over-crowded schools? Census numbers can help your community work out public improvement strategies. Non-profit organizations use census numbers to estimate the number of potential volunteers in communities across the nation.
- You can make your government work for you. The hundreds of billions of dollars in federal and state funds allocated each year mean important things to you -- things such as school lunch programs, hospitals and highways! (Using census numbers to support their request for a new community center, senior citizens in one New England community successfully argued their case before county commissioners.)
- You can get help when you need it. Many 911 emergency systems are based on maps developed for the last census. Census information helps health providers predict the spread of diseases through communities with children or elderly people. And when floods, tornadoes or earthquakes hit, the census tells rescuers how many people will need their help.
- You can help American businesses. Census numbers help industry reduce financial risk and locate potential markets. This means that businesses are able to determine the marketability of potential products and come up products you want.
- You can get information you and your family need. Although individual records are held confidential for 72 years (more about that coming up!), you can request a certificate from past censuses that can be used to establish your age, residence or relationship -- information that could help you qualify for a pension, establish citizenship or obtain an inheritance. (In 2072, your great-grandchildren may want to use census information to research family history. Right now, your children may be using census information to do their homework.)