As of Monday, we’re just one year out from Census 2020, and even if you’re not a demographer or data wonk, we promise it’s kind of a big deal. Here’s why:

  1. It’s critical for political representation.
    If you care about who represents you in Congress, and how much representation you get, then the census update matters for you. Every decade, it determines the apportionment of seats in the House of Representatives. Click here for a report on which states stand to gain or lose seats.
  2. It determines how many federal dollars flow to your neighborhood.
    The census heavily influences where federal funds are allocated. Programs such as Medicaid, SNAP, Foster Care and the National School Lunch Program count on precise census numbers to receive the amount of money they need. Click here to learn more about these programs and the process to receive adequate funding.
  3. There are 1.7 million more people to count than last time…
    In 2010, the census counted 308,745,538 people. Currently the bureau estimates 326,651,391 people live here, and that number likely will grow by 2020. Plus, people are on the move, with suburbanization picking back up, especially in the Sun Belt. Take a look at this Brookings report for more on where people are flocking to and from.
  4. …And the bureau has fewer resources than it did in 2010.
    There are fewer staff available to perform key follow-up interviews, and the bureau is attempting to move a lot of functions online. NBC has a good primer on what sorts of road blocks the census is facing as we move into 2020.
  5. There’s a big danger of undercount due to low response rates.
    Counting urban areas in particular is more difficult, due to the address challenges for multifamily housing. In addition, there is way more diversity now than in 2010. Plus, the citizenship question could be a challenge for response rates, and children are at great risk of being undercounted.The good news is, states are taking notice, and your local area may be working on outreach too. Here’s an example of what’s going on in Baltimore.

Want to know more? Take a look at 33n’s Census 2020 — Count Challenges and the Pew Charitable Trusts’ information about why census data matters. Complete count committees are formed at the state and local levels: Georgia, City of Atlanta. Visit the Census Bureau home page here, and sign up for updates!