Just the Facts

Five Facts on the Decennial Census

By Emma Petasis
April 23, 2019 | Blog

The Supreme Court is currently hearing a case on whether the question of citizenship should be added to the 2020 Census. Here are the facts. 

1. The census counts every resident in the United States

The census was created to count every person living in America in order to best determine representation in Congress. Begun in 1790 and constitutionally required, the country has conducted a census every 10 years. The last census was conducted in 2010, and the next is scheduled for 2020,[1]which will be the first one done electronically. All past census collection was done through a form mailed to each household, which they hope to eliminate.[2]

2. The census collects more than just a count of U.S. residents

The 10-question census collects demographic information in addition to a population count. It includes questions about race, age, and sex. Used to determine the representation in Congress, the census is additionally used in order to best distribute federal funding for services like hospitals and schools, in addition to infrastructure projects.[3]

3. The 2020 census could break with recent history 

The Trump administration wants to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, the first time such a question would appear on the long form census since 1950. But its decision is being challenged at the Supreme Court by a coalition of states led by the State of New York.  


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4. Supporters of the change argue it will improve elections.

Supporters of adding the question of citizenship argue that this will improve elections by understanding where exactly the citizenry lives. The Trump administration argues that the data on citizenship is “critical” to understanding population on a local level to enforce the Voting Rights Act, which will prevent racial discrimination at the polls.[4]

5. Critics think it could leave many citizens uncounted 

Critics of adding the citizenship question argue that it will result in inaccuracies due to many minorities being uncounted out of fear among noncitizens and other immigrant groups.[5]The citizenship question was not on the 2010 census, and the Census Bureau still failed to find 1.5 percent of the Hispanic population within the U.S.[6]







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