About Census Data

Census data play an essential and irreplaceable role in America. The Census:

-       Determines how many seats each state gets in the U.S. House of Representatives

-       Directs nearly $600 billion federal dollars to a variety of programs working in health care, education, infrastructure planning and construction, education, childhood nutrition and much more – including more than $8 billion to Minnesota – every year.

-       Informs businesses, educators, governments, faith communities, nonprofits, foundations,researchers, and the public about who Americans are and where they live. All sectors of public life use accurate, consistent census data to make sound policy decisions, fairly allocate resources, make wise investments, and evaluate programs to drive a healthier economy, communities, and families.


Our next decennial Census is in 2020. That might feel far away, but now’s the time for Minnesotans to prepare to be counted! The stakes are high – Minnesota is on the cusp of losing one of our 8 congressional seats. It’s vital for our state that every resident be counted. Minnesota is better when everyone counts.


What is the American Community Survey (ACS), and how is it different from the Census?

Every ten years, the Census Bureau counts and collects basic information about every person in the country, as directed by the U.S. Constitution Article 1, Section 2. The first Census was conducted in 1790, and has occurred every 10 years since then with questions that reflect the nation's people, housing, economy, and its communities. The decennial census represents our country's largest peacetime mobilization effort. Starting in 2010, the decennial census has included only "short-form" questions.


In between Census years, the Census Bureau collects more detailed information about Americans with the American Community Survey. While the decennial Census count gives us basic information about our population, the ACS is our best source for data on income, employment, educational attainment, disability, work commutes, housing characteristics and conditions, and much more. Rather than counting everyone and asking them about a wide variety of topics, the ACS asks a sample of Americans to represent the broader population.


Data that are collected from the ACS are part of the decennial census program.   Information on the economy and other topics has been included in the census since 1790, initially requested by  James Madison, a founding father.  The current format of the ACS was introduced with the 1940 decennial Census and continued through the 2000 Census.    Since 2005, the ACS has produced data about the nation’s communities every year and is considered the best source of information available– and it’s free!