The Merriam-Webster OnLine dictionary defines a CENSUS as a usually complete enumeration of a population; specifically : a periodic governmental enumeration of population1
Basically, a census is a population count.
The U.S. Census
The United States has an official census every ten years. State and local governments can have censuses
more often, but the Constitution mandates that the Federal Government must have one every decade.
A census form is sent to every US citizen, to be filled out by the head of household. Every form is either
mailed of hand delivered at the beginning of the year, and are usually due in March, or April. If the forms are
not recieved by the census bureau, individuals employed by the government will travel to the house, and ask
the head of household to either fill it out then, or tell them the information3.
There are many purposes for the census. The main reason is to apportion congressional representatives.
In the United States House of Representatives, there are two houses. There is the Senate, in which every
state has two representatives, and there is the Congress, in which each state has a number of
representatives proportional to the population of the state. In order to have fair representation of each
citizen, there must be an accurate census.2
But the US census does not only monitor the population. Along with congressional seats, the census is used
for tracking socioeconomic changes throughout the United States, so lawmakers can respond to any needs
that may arise.2
-The logo and motto of the 2010 census-
The 2010 Census
The most recent United States census was taken in early 2010. There was some controversy with the
newest census, however. Some people, like Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN), thought that some of
the questions were too personal3. The modern census forms ask for more information than just the number
of people in each household: they ask for race, ethnicity, marital status, and other information to help
lawmakers and statisticians understand the demographics of the United States3. Bachmann's argument
was that those questions were too personal, and went beyond the task of counting the number of people in
each household, as the Constitution says3. Another controversy is with counting illegal immigrants; if they
are officially counted, then the idea is that congress does not accurately reflect the population of US
The numbers for the 2010 census are still being processed, but with the help of this population count, the
government can better represent each citizen equally, and work to help the nation.
For more information, log on to the U.S. Census Bureau website
Source: 1) Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/census 2) Electronic Privacy Information Center. http://epic.org/privacy/census/ 3) Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_United_States_Census