The Census and Representation

House of Representatives
The Census determines how many people from each state will be elected to the House of Representatives.

A census is required by the United States Constitution. The first census was conducted in 1790, and they have taken place every ten years since then. Everyone over the age of 18 who lives in the United States or its territories is counted. Experts believe that the Census will show almost 330 million people live in these areas this year.

Long ago, people walked door-to-door to count people. Today, people can complete the census online, over the phone, or in the mail. The Census asks questions like how many people live in the home, how they are related to each other, and how old they are.

Why does the Census matter? One reason the census is important is money. The government funds programs that build roads and hospitals, fund emergency services, support services at schools, and build new homes. A community will get the right amount of funding if the government knows how many people live there.

Census counts also help state and local officials to redraw boundaries. What does that mean? Let’s say that your town has six elementary schools. The census will tell how many people live in each area of the town. One school might have too many students, and one might have extra room for more. The town can move school districts around to make sure that numbers are equal.

Another important reason for the census is the House of Representatives. Each state elects representatives that work in the federal government. The number of representatives depends on how many people live in the state. After the Census, some states may get more representatives. Others may lose one or two seats if fewer people live in the state than lived there ten years ago.

What Do You Think? How is the Census important to you and your family?

Photo Credit: Official White House Photo by Carlos Fyfe