U.S. Department of Commerce

Census of Governments

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PURPOSE

To provide periodic and comprehensive statistics about governments and governmental activities. The United States Code, Title 13, requires this census and provides for voluntary responses.

COVERAGE

All state and local governments in the U.S. local governments include counties, cities, townships, special districts, and school districts.

CONTENT

Data are obtained on government organizations, finances, and employment. Organization data include location, type, and characteristics of local governments and officials. Finances and employment data are the same as in comparable annual surveys and include revenue, expenditure, debt, assets, employees, payroll, and benefits.  

FREQUENCY

Every five years since 1957, for years ending in "2" and "7" (part of the Census Bureau's periodic Economic Censuses). Government organization data and information are for October of the year preceding the Census (2006, 2001, and so forth)

METHODS

A three-phased state and local government data collection, supplemented by data from the Federal government. Phase one is a pre-census directory survey of the more than 87,000 89,000 local governments. It includes extensive legal research into government structure by state, as well as a mail-out/mail-back survey, and produces an updated list of all local governments and selected data.

Phase two covers all of the Federal civilian, state and local governments and expands the census-year annual employment survey from about 10,000 to the more than 89,000 local governments. It relies on consolidated submissions from more than 30 state respondents, an Internet data collection capability, with the remainder obtained through a mail-out/mail-back survey.

Phase three covers all of the state and local governments, and expands the census year annual finance survey from about 14,000 to the more than 89,000 state and local governments. It uses in-house data compilations of source documents for many of the state and largest local governments, consolidated data submissions (usually electronic files) for about 55,000 local governments, Internet data collection capabilities, and a mail-out/mail-back survey of the remaining governments.

PRODUCTS

Public releases include electronic files and Internet tables first, followed by printed reports. Printed format consists of includes Volume 1. Government Organization.

Finance phase releases begin about 18 months after the close of the census year. They include files covering finances of state governments, local governments by type, and finances of individual government units. Internet tables cover state governments, state and local governments, and employee retirement systems of state and local governments.

Employment phase releases begin about 11 months after the census year. They include files covering employment and payroll of the Federal government (civilian only), state governments, state and local governments by state and type, and employment of all individual governments. Internet tables cover Federal employment, state employment, as well as state and local government employment by state.

USES

There are two primary users among Federal statistical agencies engaged in measuring the nation's economic and financial performance: the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the Federal Reserve Board. State and local governments use the data to develop programs and budgets, assess financial conditions, and perform comparative analyses.

In addition, analysts, economists, market specialists, and researchers need these data to measure the changing characteristics of the government sector of the economy. Journalists report on, and teachers and students learn about, their government activities using our data. Internally, the Census Bureau uses these data as a benchmark for all of our non-census year samples.

SPECIAL FEATURES

Provides the only source of periodic information that identifies and describes all units of government in the U.S. and reflects the use of nationally consistent definitions and classifications.

RELATED PROGRAMS

Directory Survey of Local Governments

Annual Survey of State and Local Government Finances

Annual Public Employment Survey


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