The U.S. census, founded by the Constitution, has played a significant role within the country’s democracy since its inception. This is performed every ten years and provides comprehensive statistics about the U.S. population — the third-largest in the world — which is used to disperse political influence and direct almost $1 trillion in federal spending.
This has also been at the forefront of a national debate about slavery, racism, legislative redistricting and prejudices against race. The census of 2020, now planned, faced criticism over attempts to add a question regarding immigration status that critics claim would alienate immigrants and skew count. As it stands currently, immigration status doesn’t positively or negatively affect an individual’s ability to be counted in the census.
Meanwhile, the pandemic of a new Coronavirus disease, COVID-19, which is spreading through the U.S. disrupts census procedures and raises concerns of an unreliable figure.
How is Coronavirus Affecting the Census?
The pandemic prompted the Office of the Census to reevaluate its strategy. Officials postponed or extended most census stages, temporarily reduced personnel and halted field activities, including counting homeless people.
The virus also caused officials to postpone job fairs that were used to attract census-takers and forced groups to abandon civic outreach programs in-person. While responses are pouring in, many fear that these disturbances will undermine the accuracy of the census.
Why it still Matters?
The U.S. census is a systematic count of the total number of U.S. residents, comprising citizens, permanent residents, long-term visitors, and undocumented immigrants, conducted every ten years. The census compiles biographical details about the U.S. population, recording features such as age, sex, marital status, ethnicity, employment, education, and home spoken languages.
For Assigning Political Authority
This data is used for a variety of reasons, most notably for the reassignment of political authority. It is the basis on which seats are to be allocated in the House of Representatives and in different state legislatures.
Distribution of Funds and Resources
It is also used to determine the allocation of nearly $900 billion to federally funded programs, allocated based on population, income, age, and other factors in an area. They include some of the biggest spending programs in the world, including Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps, Section 8 housing vouchers, student Pell grants, and highway building and maintenance. Private companies are now using data from the census to find possible investment opportunities or bring in new clients.
The last census, in 2010, showed that the United States had 308,745,538 people, a rise of 9.7 percent from 2000. It also found that population growth across the states was uneven, indicating a continuing demographic change away from the former manufacturing powerhouses’ northern and Midwestern Rust Belt and into the southern Sun Belt states.
As a result, in Congress and the Electoral College, which elects presidents, states like Texas and Florida gained more representation, while states like New York and Ohio lost representatives.
Analysts at the independent Brennan Center for Justice expect an increase in congressional seats for Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, Oregon, and Texas as a result of the 2020 census. Meanwhile, they are all expected to lose seats in Alabama, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia.
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