2020 Census: What it is and why it matters

The 2020 Census will be here before we know it. Our local response will have an enormous effect on our representation in government, our share of federal  funds, and our ability to understand our own community conditions. CI:Now is providing data to support local outreach efforts spearheaded by the joint city-county Complete Count Committee, particularly for young children, renters, immigrants, people in poverty, and other hard-to-count populations. Here we offer a growing collection of resources to help our community discover which neighborhoods are home to those least likely to respond to the Census count, what financial consequences we face if we’re undercounted, and how we can get as complete a count as possible.

Our 2020 Census work was initially funded as part of an Annie E. Casey Foundation-sponsored initiative of the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership in 2018-2019. A grant from the John L. Santikos Charitable Foundation, a fund of the San Antonio Area Foundation, has allowed us to expand on our early efforts.

What is the Census and why does it matter?

The United States has counted its population every 10 years since 1790, with the very first use of the data being determination of representation in Congress. The goal is to count everyone once, only once, and in the right place.

The Census has only about 10 questions about age, sex, Hispanic origin, race, relationship, and home ownership. This Census will be the first time that households can respond online in addition to mail, phone, or in-person.

Here are some of the ways the Census information is used:

  • re-drawing voting districts (redistricting);
  • allocating more than $675 billion in federal dollars to states, cities and counties, and individuals and families each year;
  • helping businesses decide where to put new facilities and jobs; and 
  • helping all of us understand our own community conditions and where to intervene to help people and neighborhoods thrive.

What level of funding is at stake?

Check out our new visualization of FY16-18 federal expenditures in 52 large programs in which allocations are guided by Census data. Click here for the full-page version.

Get and share the Census 101 facts

Download the Census 101 flier for all the key facts on two easy-to-read pages.

Next up:

last updated 4/30/2020