The U.S. Census Bureau began collecting data from governments during the 1840 census, when U.S. marshals gathered information about schools and school attendance. By 1850, census takers asked more questions of governments to provide a full picture of the nation's economy. Since that time, governments' data collection has expanded to include a quinquennial census and numerous surveys.
Data provided by state, county, and local governments (including school districts), in combination with data collected by the economic census and surveys are used to research and analyze public policies.
For a general overview of the Census Bureau's collection of data about governments see Factfinder for the Nation: Statistics on Governments [PDF 1.05MB].
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