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America Is Changing and So Is the Census

Since the birth of our nation to the present time, America has been a dynamic and changing country. And the U.S. Census Bureau has played a vital role helping to document America’s growth.

In 1787, the founders of the country mandated that a census be taken every 10 years. And in 1790, the year of America’s first census, 3.9 million people were counted. But change occurred slowly. The information that was provided at that time was adequate to help people understand how the nation was growing.

In the last 200 years, America has continued to reinvent itself. And today, America and its diverse neighborhoods continue to change. Babies are born. People move. Businesses grow. Disasters strike. New communities are built and city landscapes seem to spring from the horizon.

America is a rich tapestry of people and places. America is changing, and so is the census.

In today’s rapidly changing world, local leaders, governments, business people and others need current and timely information about their communities. The U.S. Census Bureau continues to be the fact-finder for the nation. Besides the decennial census conducted every 10 years, the Census Bureau conducts more than 100 surveys and censuses every year that describe the nation’s population and economy.

And now, the Census Bureau is using a powerful new tool, the American Community Survey, that is proving to be the right response for the time. The American Community Survey is now being conducted in every community across the country every month. It offers communities a fresh look at how they’re changing and much more.

So, rather than merely taking a snapshot of a community once every ten years, a snapshot that increasingly fades with age, the American Community Survey provides a dynamic, moving picture. And local leaders, decision makers and business people now have a way of documenting the change in their communities with up-to-date statistics.

The data from the survey describe the characteristics of a community. For example, how many people are employed. How much local housing costs. What proportion of families speak a language other than English at home. How much time commuters spend on the road. How many residents have college degrees. Where the elderly and veterans live. And, how many grandparents are primary caregivers.

This information then helps local leaders to understand and plan for the needs of their community,for schools, roads, transportation, housing, health care services, emergency and disaster relief, and more.

In fact, the answers from the survey directly affect the amount of federal and state funding that communities receive. Without these current statistics, funding would be based on old data from 2000 or even earlier. Since 2005, the American Community Survey has been conducted in every county nationwide.The questionnaire is randomly mailed every month to addresses in a community. And data are collected the same way as other censuses: by returned questionnaires, by telephone interviews, and by visits from Census Bureau field representatives.

The American Community Survey asks essentially the same questions as the census long form that was sent to about one in six households during Census 2000. And like that census, residents are required by law to respond. The information that is collected is used for statistical purposes only, and is completely confidential and protected by law.

In addition to providing invaluable information, the American Community Survey will also dramatically streamline the next major census in 2010. The American Community Survey: a powerful new tool providing communities and the nation with up-to-date information about how they’re changing.

America is changing, and so is the census. With the American Community Survey. For more information, visit the U.S. Census Bureau website at

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