How the Data are Collected: 2012
The Census of Governments is conducted in years ending in '2' and '7'.
Each topic area has its own data collection procedures:
Government Organization (Lists & Structure of Governments)
Conducting legal research to determine whether an organization should be classified as a government, and confirming the continued existence of governments, their administrative structure, and their activities; ultimately, counting the number of governments by type of government.
Government Employment and Payroll
Obtaining the number of people employed by governments, by full-time and part-time status, and the payroll amounts.
- Details on data collection and methodology:
Government Employment & Payroll - How the Data are Collected: (To Be Released 2014) 2007 Edition
Obtaining detailed information about the revenues, expenditures, debts, and assets of governments. Financial information is collected from multiple sources:
- State governments – Data include state-run universities and other public agencies that are dependent on the state government, even if their financial accounts are computed separately from the state budget.
Details: State Government Finance – How the Data are Collected: (To Be Released December 2013) 2007 Edition
- Local governments – such as counties, cities, townships, and special districts.
Details: State & Local Government Finance – How the Data are Collected: (To Be Released 2014) 2007 Edition
- Government finances collected by topic instead of by type of government
Governments often treat financial accounts for these topics separately from their other activities, and they often are conducted by different types and levels of government:
- Public school finances – Details on the collection and methodology of Public Elementary-Secondary Education Finance Data may be found in the introduction of the report, Public Education Finances: (To Be Released Late 2013) 2007 Edition [PDF, 1MB]
- Public Pensions
Details: State Administered Defined Benefit Data
Details: State and Locally Administered Defined Benefit Systems: (To Be Released 2014) 2007 Edition [PDF, 18KB]
Standard categories of governmental activities, and their usefulness
The Census Bureau classifies the activities of governments into standard categories (such as property taxes, sales taxes, fire protection, highway expenditures, education expenditures, long-term and short-term debt, investments of employee-retirement systems' or workers' compensation systems).
Those categories ensure that data users can analyze similar types of activities, even though states and local governments differ among each other in how they record those activities in their legislation and in their accounting systems.
Details: Government Finance & Employment Classification Manual