The 2020 Census is underway, and every U.S. household is required to complete a census form online, by mail, or over the phone. Everyone knows the most basic goal of the census – to count the total U.S. population – but an accurate census offers much more than that and is directly tied to funding communities receive for a variety of services including public safety, infrastructure, school lunches, SNAP benefits, and much more.
To the layperson, the only obvious place census results are reflected is in a population count. What is harder to see, at first glance, is how that raw data is transformed into action.
“Every individual has a value, be they a family manager, manufacturer, student, or even a newborn baby,” said Karen Lauerman, President and CEO of the Lake County IN Economic Alliance (LCEA). “Every person counted is tremendously important to municipalities, because the count determines the federal programming dollars that each community receives.” Around $1 trillion in federal spending is allocated according to the decennial census data, and that money funds programs that fill many Americans’ basic needs and services.
Moreover, local and state governments often assign resources according to population or economic statistics while government agencies and elected leaders utilize data to introduce or establish public policy. Economic development benefits are analyzed using cost analyses, which also draw on data. At every level, economic development decisions are driven by numbers.
Decision-makers in both the public and private sectors rely on data to make decisions. Businesses leverage numbers from all levels, to decide where to invest resources. From simple population facts to more sophisticated numbers including workforce, household expenditures, talent pool; average wage; data is the best way for companies to forecast revenues and costs under several circumstances. These projections ultimately drive all major business decisions.
“Things like schools, fire departments, and sometimes infrastructure are all impacted by the census,” Lauerman said. “It shapes a community and impacts everyday life. Population, housing, occupation, and other demographic clusters that show an absence of resources are just as important as raw population totals.”
“There are great organizations out there that use this data to help grow and maintain our communities,” Lauerman said. “It even helps determine affordable housing needs. Another example if you look at this ongoing pandemic, the data sets may identify where relief funding should be sent by evaluating high-density locations of healthcare workers, or areas lacking enough of them to serve the population.”
LCEA uses census data, combined with other data analysis, to help encourage businesses and developers to locate their projects in Lake County.
“The data from the census is a starting point that we use to help encourage site selectors and companies to move forward,” Lauerman said. “Good statistical information helps decision-makers invest in Lake County by showcasing the project’s likelihood for success.”
To participate in the 2020 Census, visit 2020census.gov.