Making Sense of the Census
KENNESAW, Ga. (Apr 1, 2020) — April 1, 2020, is officially census day for the constitutionally-mandated decennial census in the United States, a questionnaire sent out every 10 years to gather demographics about the country’s population.
And while the data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau tells the story of population growth, according to Kennesaw State Assistant Professor of Geography Dr. Paul N. McDaniel, the census is vital for influencing nearly every level of government, business and even nonprofits.
Take Georgia, for example. McDaniel says that the metro-Atlanta region’s population grew by 13.9 percent from 2010 to 2019 according to American Community Survey data from the Census Bureau, and the region is expected to continue growing.
“There has been a lot of economic opportunity in the Atlanta region, so people are migrating here,” he said. “I expect this year’s census to show an increase and diversification in Georgia’s population, especially in the metro-Atlanta area, and population estimates from the Atlanta Regional Commission suggest that the Atlanta metro region will grow by over 2.5 million people by 2050, bringing the metro area’s total population to 8.6 million.”
And it’s that population growth that could have broad implications for the state.
“The census data helps determine federal funding distribution, congressional seats and the number of Electoral College votes a state has,” McDaniel explains. “So, based on the growth in Atlanta, Georgia could be looking to gain in those areas.”
In addition to those gains, McDaniel says that all sectors of society—public, private, and nonprofit—use census data to make informed decisions that also benefit cities and states.
“Many businesses use census data to determine where to expand, cities rely on the information to determine transportation needs, and much more. Different levels of government use census data to allocate funding and help make planning decisions. Planning related to transportation, schools, housing, healthcare facilities, businesses, and nonprofits are just some of the examples of areas that benefit from the use of census data. Census results impact the population’s representation in government, how much federal funding communities receive, and how communities plan ahead.”
How do questions end up on the census? “Conducting a census of the population of a physically geographically large country such as the U.S., which has nearly 330 million people, is a complex process,” McDaniel notes. “Census Bureau researchers have developed robust statistical and survey research methodologies over decades to ensure accuracy in the census. Each decennial census requires years of planning, research, and testing to ensure census questions are asked in the clearest format to achieve the most accurate, rigorous results.”
Despite the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the 2020 Census is still underway and can be completed in only a few minutes via a simple online survey. Indeed, McDaniel notes that the U.S. decennial census has never been delayed in its 220-plus year history.
So, when you hear about the census survey or a volunteer follows up with you about completing the survey, McDaniel says that you’ll want to stand up and be counted.
Visit 2020census.gov for more information about the 2020 Census from the U.S. Census Bureau.