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About The Census


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Photo excerpt the U.S. Constitution, Article 1

What Is The Census & What Is It For?

The Census is a head count of everyone residing in the United States. It is mandated in the U.S. Constitution, and occurs every 10 years, starting in 1790. The Census counts people of all ages, races and ethnic groups. 

The U.S. Constitution (Article I, Section 2) mandates a headcount every 10 years, of everyone residing in the United States: in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the Island Areas. This includes people of all ages, races, ethnic groups, citizens, and noncitizens. The first census was conducted in 1790 and has been carried out every 10 years since then. The population totals from the 2020 census will determine the number of seats each state has in the House of Representatives. States also use the totals to redraw their legislative districts. The U.S. Census Bureau must submit state population totals to the President of the United States by December 31, 2020. The totals also affect funding in your community, and data collected in the census help inform decision makers how your community is changing. 


History of the Census

Census 2020: National Archives

Once a decade, America comes together to participate in the decennial census. These records are kept confidential for 72 years until they are released by the National Archives. Every 10 years, when a new set of individual records is released, they are eagerly anticipated by genealogists, historians and researchers, creating an opportunity to increase awareness of census statistics.

National Archives and Records Administration Website


Census 2020: Decennial Census of Population and Housing

The first census began more than a year after the inauguration of President Washington and shortly before the second session of the first Congress ended. Congress assigned responsibility for the 1790 Census to the marshals of the U.S. judicial districts. The pay allowed for the 1790 "enumerators" was very small, and did not exceed $1 for 50 people properly recorded on the rolls.

The First Federal Congress established a special committee to prepare the questions to be included in the first census. The suggestions were likely debated in the House, and according to a report in a Boston newspaper, Virginia Representative James Madison recommended at least five of the initial six questions.

The six inquiries in 1790 called for questions on gender, race, relationship to the head of household, name of the head of household, and the number of slaves, if any. Marshals in some states went beyond these questions and collected data on occupation and the number of dwellings in a city or town.

The first census in 1790 was managed under the direction of Thomas Jefferson, the Secretary of State. Marshals took the census in the original 13 states plus the districts of Kentucky, Maine, and Vermont, and the Southwest Territory (Tennessee). Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson was nominal supervisor of the census on Census Day, August 2, 1790.


Census 2020: US Census Bureau History

On November 28, 2019, the United States celebrates Thanksgiving. The way Americans celebrate the holiday has changed since colonists celebrated the first days of thanksgiving in Virginia and Massachusetts in the early 1600s. No longer strictly a holiday celebrating survival and the autumn harvest, Thanksgiving is now a time for families and friends to gather, enjoy a meal together, watch football, participate in charitable events, and begin the holiday shopping season.

Today, our Thanksgiving holiday celebrations reflect our nation's increasingly diverse population. Feasts may include turkey, ham, or roast beef; Italian aranchini, Mexican chile relleno, Indian chicken vindaloo, or Vietnamese bun cha; and a cornucopia of side dishes, vegetables, breads, and desserts. You can learn more about the history of Thanksgiving and how we celebrate the holiday using census data and records. 


Questions On The Census & Participation

Why does the Census Bureau ask the questions they do and why should you participate?

The Census Bureau asks the questions they do on the surveys because of federal needs and for community benefits. The information the Census Bureau collects helps determine how more than $675 billion dollars of federal funding annually is spent on infrastructure and services.

Your answers help:

  • Federal, state, and local leaders make decisions about schools, hospitals, emergency services, roads, bridges, job training centers, and many other projects that affect your community.
  • Residents use the census to support community initiatives involving legislation, quality-of-life and consumer advocacy
  • Businesses use census data to decide where to build factories, offices and stores, which create jobs.
  • Real estate developers use the census to build new homes and revitalize old neighborhoods.
  • Apportionment of U.S. House of Representative Seats:
    Every 10 years, using the count from the decennial (meaning, every 10 years) Census, the seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are redistributed based on population. Based on 2020 Census data, it is likely that Colorado could gain an additional House seat, creating Colorado House District 8.
    Learn more about Congressional Apportionment.

Who participates?

The Census is for everyone. The U.S. Constitution instructs that every person living in the United States be counted during the Census. Money is allocated to Colorado based on Census counts. An analysis from George Washington University estimates that each person counted in Colorado is worth $1,481 per year. 

Regardless of age, immigrant status, race or creed. One form is completed for your housing unit, whether it be a house, an apartment or a condominium. 

The census counts every person living in the U.S> once, only once, and in the right place.


When can you participate?

Expect to receive a mailing by March 23, 2020. You will answer just 11 questions about the people living in your household on April 1, 2020. It will take about 10 minutes to complete the Census.

See the 2020 Census Operational Timeline.


Where can you participate?

You can respond online, by phone or by mail.


U.S. & World Population Clock

Visit's website to see population estimates and related data for the U.S. and the world.


In the News

Check out various news stories about the 2020 census, from the State of Colorado's website.


Have Questions?

Kaye Kavanagh, Census Coordinator