Magazine article Government Finance Review

The Importance of the Census for Small Communities

Magazine article Government Finance Review

The Importance of the Census for Small Communities

Article excerpt

The decennial Census is important to all Americans, but especially to small communities. Approximately 25 percent of the United States population lives in small communities which are governmental units having 3,000 inhabitants or fewer, i.e., smaller than the average Census tract. Of the 39,000 units of general purpose government in the U.S., nearly 85 percent, or 32,000 are communities with populations of less than 3,000. These communities cover at least 95 percent of the land area in the United States.

Small communities use data the same way as big cities and counties. Local officials use this information to see how their residents are doing. They study the Census to see how their community has changed in the 10 years since the previous count. They compare their own community with neighboring communities.

The most remarkable aspect of the Census is the geographical detail of the data. Yet, it should not come as a surprise, for this is precisely the defining feature of the decennial count - that, once for each decade, this extraordinarily complex undertaking provides statistical information for the country that is uniformly gathered and tabulated everywhere. The Census is the single statistical activity in this information driven society that uniformly provides rich and detailed numbers of high quality for small areas, that when aggregated can provide information about our localities and neighborhoods, business trade areas and service territories, and about electoral wards and precincts. This is the statistical undertaking that provides vital and precious information to communities, even the smallest communities, who seek to equitably and fairly allocate their limited resources to those neighborhoods and those people most in need. This is the decennial ritual that provides the statistical bearings for a small town seeking to understand where, demographically, it is headed in a complex and changing world and how it is doing relative to its neighbors; what the future holds; and what local resources are available in the community to assist on that journey. …

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