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Uses of Census Bureau Data in Federal Funds Distribution

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Executive Summary

This working paper documents an updated estimate of the federal funds distributed each year in whole or in part using U.S. Census Bureau data. This paper finds that 132 programs used Census Bureau data to distribute more than $675 billion in funds during fiscal year 2015.

In 2009, the Census Bureau issued a working paper that found more than $400 billion of federal funds were distributed using Census Bureau data (Blumerman, 2009). This estimate was frequently used to illustrate the value of accurate Census Bureau data to the public, as part of the effort to encourage timely survey and census responses. However, the “more than $400 billion” estimate was based on fiscal year 2007 funding. As the Census Bureau actively prepares for the 2020 Census, an updated estimate becomes increasingly important.

Census Bureau data, for the scope of this analysis, include decennial census program data (decennial census data, American Community Survey [ACS] data, and geographic program data) as well as data from related programs that use decennial census data as a critical input. This analysis examines the current distribution of funds, and includes those federal programs using Census Bureau data to distribute funds, in one of three ways:

  • Selection and/or restriction of recipients of funds. Programs use Census Bureau data to define either the characteristics of populations served by the program or the characteristics of governments and organizations eligible to receive funds to provide those services.
  • Award or allocation of funds. Programs use Census Bureau data to determine the funds distributed to eligible recipients and providers.
  • Monitoring and assessment of program performance. Programs use Census Bureau data to ensure programs function as designed, to encourage and award effective administration of programs, and to explore alternative methods of funds distribution.

Page Last Revised - October 8, 2021
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