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The United States Census Bureau (officially Bureau of the Census as defined in Title ) is the government agency that is responsible for the United States Census. It also gathers other national demographic and economic data. As part of the United States Department of Commercemarker, the Census Bureau serves as a leading source of data about America's people and economy.

The most visible role of the Census Bureau is to perform the official decennial (every 10 year) count of people living in the USA. One core result is to decide the number of seats each state is allowed in the House of Representatives. The agency director is a political appointee selected by the President of the United States.

Legal mandate

The Constitution of the United States (Article I, section II) directs that the population be enumerated at least once every ten years and the resulting counts used to set the number of members from each state in the House of Representatives and, by extension, in the Electoral College. The Census Bureau now conducts a full population count every 10 years in years ending with a 0 (zero) and uses the term "decennial" to describe the operation. Between censuses, the Census Bureau makes population estimates and projections. In addition, Census data directly affect how more than $300 billion per year in federal and state funding is allocated to communities for neighborhood improvements, public health, education, transportation and much more. The Census Bureau is mandated with fulfilling these obligations: the collecting of statistics about the nation, its people, and economy. The Census Bureau's legal authority is codified in Title 13 of the United States Code. In addition, the Census Bureau also conducts surveys on behalf of various Federal Government and local government agencies on topics such as employment, crime, health, consumer expenditures, and housing. Within the bureau, these are known as "demographic surveys" and are conducted perpetually between and during decennial (10-year) population counts. The Census Bureau also conducts economic surveys of manufacturing, retail, service, and other establishments and of domestic governments.

From 1790 to 1840, the census was taken by marshals of the judicial districts. The Census Act of 1840 established a central office which became known as the Census Office. Several acts followed revising and authorizing new censuses, typically around the 10 year intervals. In 1902 the temporary Census Office was moved under the Department of Interior, and in 1903 it was renamed the Census Bureau under the new Department of Commerce and the Interior. The department was intended to consolidate overlapping statistical agencies, but Census Bureau officials were hindered by their subordinate role in the department. An act around 1920 changed the date and authorized manufacturing censuses every 2 years and agriculture censuses every 10 years. In 1929, a bill was passed mandating that the House of Representatives be reapportioned based on the results of the 1930 census. In 1954, various acts were codified into Title 13 of the US Code.

By law the Census Bureau must count everyone and submit state population totals to the U.S. President by December 31, 2010. States within the Union would then receive the results the spring of the following year.

Uses of census data

Many federal, state, local and tribal governments use census data to:
  • decide the location of new housing and public facilities,
  • examine the demographic characteristics of communities, states, and the USA,
  • plan transportation systems and roadways,
  • determine quotas and creation of police and fire precincts,
  • create localized areas for elections, schools, utilities, etc.


Business also has many uses for census data, as listed;
  • forecast future product demand,
  • determine site locations for expansion/new business,
  • determine future need for nursing homes, day care centers, hospitals, etc,
  • clarify if they are employing a representative workforce.

Data stewardship

The United States Census Bureau is committed to confidentiality and guarantees non-disclosure of any addresses or personal information related to individuals or establishments. Title 13 of the U.S. Code establishes penalties for the disclosure of this information. All Census employees must sign a sworn affidavit of non-disclosure prior to employment.

The Census Bureau can not share responses, addresses or personal information with anyone including United States or foreign government and law enforcement agencies such as the IRS or the FBI or Interpol. "Providing quality data, for public good, -while respecting individual privacy and, at the same time, protecting confidentiality- is the Census Bureau's core responsibility," says Arnold Jackson, chief operating officer for the US Census. "Keeping the public's trust is critical to the Census's ability to carry out the mission as the leading source of quality data about the Nations people and economy." Only after 72 years does the information collected become available to other agencies or the general public.

Organizational structure

Since 1903, the official census-taking agency of the United States government has been the Bureau of the Census. The Census Bureau is headed by a Director, assisted by a Deputy Director and an Executive Staff composed of the associate directors. In April 2009, President Barack Obama nominated Robert M. Groves to head the Census Bureau.

The Census Bureau has been headquartered in Suitlandmarker, Marylandmarker since 1942. A new headquarters complex was completed in 2007 and supports over 4,000 employees. The Bureau also operates regional offices in 12 cities: Bostonmarker, New York Citymarker, Philadelphiamarker, Detroitmarker, Chicagomarker, Kansas Citymarker, Seattlemarker, Charlottemarker, Atlantamarker, Dallasmarker, Denvermarker, and Los Angelesmarker. The National Processing Center is located in Jeffersonvillemarker, Indianamarker. Additional temporary processing facilities are used to facilitate the decennial census, which employs more than a million persons. The cost of the 2000 decennial census was US$4.5 billion. During the years just prior to the decennial census, parallel Census offices, known as "Regional Census Centers" are opened in the 12 field office cities. The decennial operations are carried out expressly from these facilities. The Regional Census Centers will oversee the openings and closings of smaller "Local Census Offices" within their collection jurisdictions.

The Census Bureau also runs the Census Information Center cooperative program that involves 58 "national, regional, and local non-profit organizations." The CIC program aims to represent the interests of underserved communities.

Census regions and divisions

The United States Census Bureau has four official regions, with nine official divisions.

Official US Census Bureau Regions and Divisions

The Census Bureau and computers

The 1890 census was the first to use the electric tabulating machines invented by Herman Hollerith. For 1890-1940 details, see . In 1946, knowing of the Bureau's funding of Hollerith and, later, Powers, John Mauchly approached the Bureau about early funding for UNIVAC development. A UNIVAC I computer was accepted by the Bureau in 1951.

In order to reduce paper usage and reduce payroll expenses, 500,000 handheld computers (HHC's) were used for the first time in 2009 during the address canvassing portion of the 2010 Dicentennial Census Project. Projected savings are over $1 Billion dollars. The further implementation of advanced computer systems in the planning for the 2020 Census provide major challenges for an upgrade in the technological broadening of Census protocol.

Prison counts

Organizations such as the Prison Policy Initiative argue that Census counts of incarcerated men and women as residents of prisons, rather than of their pre-incarceration addresses, skew political clout and result in misleading demographic and population data.

Ongoing surveys

A survey is a method of collecting and analyzing social, economic, and geographic data. It provides information about the conditions of the United States, states, and counties. Throughout the decade between censuses, The Bureau of the Census is continually conducting surveys to produce a general view and comprehensive study of the United States' social and economic conditions.

Staff from the Current Surveys Program conduct ongoing and special surveys about people and their characteristics. A network of professional field representatives gathers information from a sample of households, responding to questions about employment, consumer expenditures, health, housing, and other topics.

Surveys Conducted in between decades.

Other surveys conducted by the Census Bureau

The Census Bureau collects information in many other surveys and provides the data to the survey sponsor for release. These sponsors include:

See also



External links

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