History & Importance of the Census

History of the Census

"The U.S. Constitution requires only that the decennial census be a population count. Since the first census in 1790, however, the need for useful information about the United States' population and economy became increasingly evident.

The decennial census steadily expanded throughout the nineteenth century. By the turn of the century, the demographic, agricultural, and economic segments of the decennial census collected information on hundreds of topics. The work of processing these data kept the temporary Census Office open for almost all the decades following the 1880 and 1890 censuses.

Recognizing the growing complexity of the decennial census, Congress enacted legislation creating a permanent Census Office within the Department of the Interior on March 6, 1902. On July 1, 1902, the U.S. Census Bureau officially "opened its doors" under the leadership of William Rush Merriam.

In 1903, the Census Office was moved to the newly created Department of Commerce and Labor. It remained within Commerce when Commerce and Labor split into separate departments in 1913." (census.gov)

Importance of the Census

Each year, the federal government uses census count data to determine how to spend nearly $800 billion dollars for services that communities rely on.

Your community's census count data determines how much you will receive for services like SNAP/WIC, healthy food programs, nurses, doctors, health benefits, affordable and emergency housing, teachers, bus and train lines, transportation infrastructure, senior services, infants and youth services, climate, emergency care, and more. It also determines how many elected officials will be assigned to your district.

Communities that are under counted do not get their fair share of these resources. Historically, communities of African descent are under counted. This has a devastating impact on our community's ability to meet its needs. Increasing the 2020 Census response rate in New York City’s “Hard to Count” communities of African descent will play a significant role in securing the proper level of services and political representation for the next ten years.