Census (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
An official count of the population of a particular area, such as a district, state, or nation.
The U.S. Constitution requires that a census of the entire population, citizens and noncitizens alike, be made every ten years (Article I, Section 2, Clause 3). The FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT to the Constitution directs that the census will be used to determine the number of members of the U.S. House of Representatives from each state. The census is conducted by the U.S. CENSUS BUREAU, an agency established in 1899 within the U.S. COMMERCE DEPARTMENT. The data gathered by the U.S. Census Bureau are used by the states to draw boundaries for congressional and state legislative districts, and by local governments to establish districts for other representative bodies such as county legislatures, city councils, and boards of supervisors.
Census data are also used to allocate federal and state funding and services. By the mid-1990s, more than $50 billion in federal aid for education, housing, and health programs to states and cities was distributed annually based on census numbers. In addition, census information is used in academic research and is sought by product manufacturers and marketers who want to know the demographics of potential consumers....
(The entire section is 2971 words.)
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Census (Encyclopedia of Public Health)
A census is an enumeration of all the people of a nation or a registration region, a systematic and complete count of all who are living in specified places, usually on a specific date. The practice of conducting a periodic census began in Egypt in the second millennium before the common era, where it was used for tax gathering and to determine fitness for military services. The Romans adopted the practice in the first century B.C.E. Jesus of Nazareth was born in Bethlehem because Mary and Joseph had gone there to be enumerated in a Roman census. The Domesday Book was a census of English landowners and their resources soon after the Norman conquest. Many European nations held censuses of varying quality and completeness from time to time until the modern era, when the practice became a formal part of the business of a modern state. The first modern census in England was in 1801, and has been repeated at ten-year intervals ever since, except when interrupted by the Second World War.
In democratic societies, one important purpose of the census is to obtain a precise count of the people in each electoral district who are eligible to vote. For this reason even the politicians who oppose government "interference" in people's lives usually support the census. However, many people in nations with a past history of totalitarianism resist attempts to gather detailed personal information that is routinely gathered elsewhere.
Like most modern democracies, the United States conducts a complete enumeration every ten years, under the auspices of the Bureau of the Census, which publishes detailed reports. Some nations, such as Canada, hold an interim census at the five-year interval between the decennial census, often on a random sample basis. The rationale for this is that the composition and locations of the population is changing so rapidly that accurate current information is required to maintain essential services.
Information for the census is gathered in most countries by enumerators who visit every dwelling, systematically recording the name, sex, and age of everyone living there. Much other information is often collected at the same time and put to various uses. This may include other details about individuals and families, including ethnic origins, language, occupation, and marital status. Occasionally the census includes questions on health conditions, particularly chronic conditions and permanent disabilities such as blindness. Other useful facts include details about dwellings. This may include the number of bedrooms (a measure of crowding when related to the number of occupants); facilities for cooking and safe storage of food; sanitation and access to hot water; number of cars owned or used; number of telephones; and ownership of appliances such as television sets and computers. Some of this information has public health significance, and some is in the category of socially useful data. Some people regard questions with this level as unduly intrusive, but most willingly cooperate when reassured that the information will be used only to compile statistics. In the United States, census enumerators have all taken an oath of secrecy, and they can be punished with fines or even imprisonment if they disclose the facts they gather to any unauthorized person.
In certain countries, illegal immigrants or others living outside of conventional society avoid enumeration by various means, causing census to underrepresent the population. In parts of the United States with appreciable numbers of illegal immigrants, the proportion missed in the census may reach 10 percent. Estimates of actual numbers can be based on unobtrusive measures and indirectly obtained information such as school attendance and hospital room recordings.
JOHN M. LAST
(SEE ALSO: Bureau of the Census; Demography; Vital Statistics)
Census Data (Encyclopedia of Small Business)
Census data are numerical facts collected by the government on a regular basis relating to population, geographic trends, and the economy. Census data are used in a multitude of different ways. While the decennial population count is by far the biggest census that the U.S. Bureau of the Census undertakes, it also does thousands of other censusesome annually, others monthlyo track changes in American society. This data is used to allocate government resources and determine regional representation in the U.S. Congress. The U.S. Economic Survey, another type of census which comes out every five years, is particularly helpful to small business owners. This data can help entrepreneurs evaluate business opportunities, consumer preferences, and competitive strategies, as well as locate the best geographic sites for new businesses.
The original mandate to perform a national population census every ten years is contained in the U.S. Constitution. In 1880, Congress streamlined the census process by establishing a separate Census Office in the U.S. Department of the Interior. The Census Bureau has been compiling ever greater numbers of censuses since it was first established. Every conceivable aspect of business, industry, and commerce is documented either monthly, annually, biannually, or quinquennially in the form of census surveys and polls, averaging 2,000 per year. Some of the census data are published in the form of one-or two-page reports; others are compiled annually into the Statistical Abstract of the United States. A recent innovation has been the Census Bureau's geographic database, TIGER (Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing), which provides a block-by-block population survey of the United States, including every bridge, stream, road, and tunnel. TIGER is available on CD-ROM as well as on the Internet, and many local libraries make it available to the general public.
In short, billions of facts are churned out by the Census Bureau annually. Approximately 40,000 different federal, state, and local government agencies and business entities rely on these facts. The decennial population census guides the reapportionment of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as in state, county, and municipal legislatures. Major cities also are vitally interested in the census data, since the population figures determine the amount of federal aid they receive. The census data also detail the amount of spending by state and local governments.
USEFULNESS OF DATA TO SMALL BUSINESSES
Virtually every business, industry, and service uses (or could benefit from using) census data. Entrepreneurs and self-employed persons often turn to the Census Bureau's popular publication Taking Care of Business: A Guide to Census Bureau Data for Small Businesses, which provides helpful guidelance on understanding census statistics. In addition, many businesses and manufacturers rely heavily on the five year U.S. Economic Survey, which is compiled from the results of questionnaires sent to 3.5 million companies. This data can help small business owners evaluate business opportunities, consumer preferences, market share, and competitive strategies, as well as enable them to locate the best geographic sites for new business and distribution routes for their products. It can also provide strong clues as to how to advertise products or target direct mail more effectively. The Economic Survey has become so detailed and complex in recent years that the Census Bureau issues a special reference book to guide the researcher through the data. But this information is also available in a number of other forms. For example, the Census Bureau cooperates with the U.S. Small Business Administration to provide statistics for a range of publications and helps organize business seminars and workshops throughout the country. In addition, numerous private research firms offer their own census data "packages," complete with a user-friendly electronic format and their own projections. Many newspapers and magazines also cite social or economic data from current Census Bureau surveys.
Despite the utility and profit derived from using or marketing census data, there have nearly always been controversies surrounding the Census Bureau and the data it gives out. Because census data are vital in determining the amount of federal aid to cities, the Census Bureau has faced dozens of lawsuits alleging undercounting of minorities. The matter of privacy has also continually perplexed census efforts. While the pressure on the Bureau to provide increasingly detailed information has increased over the years, so has resistance to the "prying" nature of census questionnaires on the part of the publicrom businesses to private individuals. Although the Bureau has been mandated to keep all of its information confidential since 1929, the computerization of government records has cast public doubt on the "leakproof" nature of census information. Finally, the demands for more diversified data have sizably increased the budget of the Census Bureau. This has led the bureau to consider scaling back some of its survey activities, but private sector entities (universities, research firms) will likely fill any significant gap that appears, given continued high demand for such data.
Andelman, David A. "Counting Up Americans." Management Review. December 1998.
Anderson, Margo. The American Census: A Social History. Yale University Press, 1988.
Myers, Dowell. Analysis with Local Census Data: Portraits of Change. Academic Press, 1992.
Pettersson, Edvard. "Census Data Shed New Light on Economy." Los Angeles Business Journal. September 20, 1999.
Census Data (Encyclopedia of Business)
"Census data" most often is associated in the public mind with population. The U.S. census enters America's consciousness every ten years, usually in the form of a long, detailed mail-in questionnaire, quickly forgotten when it's mailed back. It would surprise many to learn that census data are used in a multitude of different ways. While the decennial population count is by far the biggest census that the U.S. Bureau of the Census undertakes, the Bureau also does thousands of different censuses, some annually, others monthly, while the U.S. Economic Census comes out every five years. The data results of all the censuses are awaited eagerly by members of Congress, federal and state agencies, and businesses throughout the United States.
As to the biggest and oldest census, the population count, there is almost no resemblance between the census of today and the first official one tabulated over two hundred years ago. The Articles of Confederation made no provision for a national census. The issue only arose when a federal constitution was debated in 1789. When delegates to the constitutional convention finally agreed to accept population as the principle of representation in the House, it became a problem to decide whom to include in the population. Delegates from southern states wanted slaves to be counted equally with white men and women, while northerners, fearing overrepresentation of southern whites in Congress, insisted that three slaves equaled only one white person. Native Americans would not be included at all. Finally, the Constitution mandated a national population census every ten years.
In 1880, Congress decided to do something about streamlining the census process, hence mandating the establishment of a separate Census Office in the U.S. Department of the Interior, which would hire professionals to do the census. Special punch card tabulating machines were introduced, while women were hired for the first time as enumerators. In 1904, the Census Bureau was made a permanent part of the newly created U.S. Department of Commerce.
A new and rather daring departure from the traditional human census counter occurred in 1910, when the Census Bureau decided to introduce the census questionnaire by mail. Either because the public was insufficiently educated on the importance of the census or because few people had private telephones for follow-up reminders, most discarded the census form with its prying questions, necessitating the return of the census counter.
Conceived by bureau mathematicians in 1943, the sample survey queried only a small percentage of the population to produce results reflective of the population at large. The sample survey opened the door for a multitude of different, and more detailed, surveys in the future, and is still used today.
To tabulate all of this data would have been a gargantuan task for a human enumerator. Computers were first used to handle the 1950 census, which at the time was the biggest population survey ever conducted.
KINDS OF CENSUS DATA
Aside from the decennial census, probably the most important demographic study by the Census Bureau is its monthly Current Population Survey (CPS), which is conducted in conjunction with the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics. This survey tabulates the U.S. population by age, sex, ethnicity, employment status, income, immigration, occupation, education, and other characteristics. The CPS provides the basis for a monthly estimate of the current U.S. population count. Other demographic information the bureau collects include data on housing and homeownership, health insurance, poverty, and disabilities.
Personal information from surveys and censuses is generally not publicly disclosed for commercial or private (such as genealogical) use. There is a 72-year confidentiality period on all personal-level census data, meaning that, for instance, in 2002 personal data from the 1930 census will be published. However, even then this information is released directly to libraries and archives rather than to individual researchers.
Business, industry, and commerce are documented either monthly, annually, biannually, or quinquennially in the form of census surveys and polls, averaging two thousand a year. Some of the census data are published in the form of one or two page reports; others are compiled annually into the thousand pages of the Statistical Abstract of the United States. Much historical economics well as demographicnformation is available on CD-ROM and on the Census Bureau's web site.
The Economic Census, which is conducted in years ending in two and seven and released approximately three years later, is the bureau's largest economic data product. It includes detailed data on all areas of the U.S. economy as grouped by Standard Industrial Classification, and as of the 1997 edition, North American Industry Classification System categories. The data includes the number of businesses in each industry, industry revenue figures, and geographic breakdown of industry firms.
In addition to the major Economic Census, the bureau publishes many surveys used by economists and business analysts. A few of the most important include:
- Advance Monthly Retail Sales Survey
- Annual Survey of Manufactures
- Assets and Expenditures Survey
- County Business Patterns
- Housing Starts
- Manufacturers' Shipments, Inventories, and Orders Survey
- Monthly Wholesale Trade Survey
- Service Annual Survey
- Survey of Plant Capacity Utilization
- Women- and Minority-Owned Business Survey
Virtually every business could benefit from using census data. Private entrepreneurs, from barbershop owners to the self-employed, can turn to the Census Bureau's popular publication, Taking Care of Business: A Guide to Census Bureau Data for Small Businesses. For example, a restaurant in Los Angeles was able to contact the Census Bureau to find out the number of residents from the Deep South residing in the city, in order to determine how many ham hocks the restaurant should order. For a business catering to an ethnic minority, the census provides the population figure, location, and incomes for that ethnic group, and much more data besides. Certain companies can plot their future marketing strategies more effectively when they discover that the 1990 census indicates that by 2050, America's elderly populationhose over 85 years of ageill have increased sixfold. Census data can tell a utility business the percentage of homes that use gas for heating and cooking. Lastly, the Census Bureau cooperates with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to provide statistics for a range of publications and helps organize seminars and workshops throughout the country.
GOVERNMENT USES AND REPORTING
Approximately 40,000 different federal, state and local government agencies and business entities rely on the diverse data collected by the Census Bureau. The president is mandated to present the decennial census results before Congress by January 1 of the year following the taking of the population census, which is the signal to begin reapportionment of seats in the House. Several months later, on April 1, every state must have received a detailed population count from the Census Bureau to begin reapportionment of its legislature (which also includes county and municipal legislatures). Major cities also are vitally interested in the census data, since the population figures determine the amount of federal aid they receive. Anyone interested in ascertaining the amount of spending by state and local governments can also find this in the census data.
Despite the utility and profit derived from using or marketing census data, there have nearly always been controversies surrounding the Census Bureau and the data it gives out. Because census data are vital in determining the amount of federal aid to cities, and whether or not to expand low income housing and other social programs, the Census Bureau has faced dozens of lawsuits alleging undercounting of minorities. The bureau publicly acknowledges its shortcomings in correctly counting the population in the decennial census. In the 1970 census, for example, the population was underestimated by around 5 million, the vast majority of whom were members of minority groups. Better census methods resulted in the smallest undercount of any census for the 1990 population count. In that census, the Hispanic population was underestimated by only 5.2 percent, African-Americans by 4.8 percent, Native Americans by 5 percent, and Asian and Pacific Islanders by 3.1 percent. Undercounting minorities can have severe consequences for cities that rely on federal grants. It also angers minority groups who feel left out of reapportionment and whose poor are underserved. Businesses also seek accurate minority data for marketing purposes.
The bureau's solution to the undercounting has been to try to implement expanded use of statistical sampling in the decennial census, a proposition that has drawn the ire of political conservatives. While such methodology is widely used and supported by statistics professionals in business and academiand, in those circles, is believed highly reliable if designed properlypponents insist that it is open to illegal tampering for political purposes and is even unconstitutional.
Besides the criticisms the Census Bureau has had to face regarding population undercounts, the matter of privacy has continually perplexed census efforts. While the postwar decades have escalated the pressure on the bureau to provide increasingly detailed information, there is resistance to the "prying" nature of census questionnaires on the part of the public, from businesses to private individuals. The well-known fear of illegal immigrants of filling out the census questionnaires is partly the reason for the undercount of the Hispanic population, for which the bureau gets blamed. Since 1929, the bureau has been especially mandated to keep all of its information confidential. Nonetheless, the computerization of government has cast public doubt on the "leakproof' nature of census information.
The public's, as well as government's, demands for more diversified data have been another problem for the Census Bureau. In the 1950s and 1960s, in response to these pressures, census data became ever more detailed, covering smaller and smaller geographic areas. This has enormously expanded the mandate of the Census Bureau from what it was initially called upon to do and has increased sizably the bureau's budget. In the mid-1990s, federal budget cuts reduced Census Bureau funding, as well as that for other statistical agencies, and caused the bureau to scale back some of its data collection and analysis activities. There are indications that even the ten-year population count will change significantly in the 21st century, possibly involving only a sample survey of a small percentage of the population, obviating the need, for instance, to tabulate the more than 100 million household questionnaires that would otherwise be necessary. Some believe that census data and many other surveys may be conducted increasingly by the private sector, especially universities and research firms.
Crispell, Diane. "Drawing the Line." American Demographics, July 1996.
Lavin, Michael R. Understanding the Census: A Guide for Marketers, Planners, Grant Writers, and Other Data Users. Phoenix: Oryx Press, 1996.
U.S. Census Bureau. "About the Census Bureau." Washington, 1998. Available from www.census.gov.