In today’s data-rich, technology-driven world, the decennial counting of every person in the United States may seem archaic. However, the census is unique as it counts everybody living in the U.S. and is the foundation for all data collections. On the government side, census data informs how congressional districts are redrawn and determines where government funds go. On the private sector side, businesses use the data to decide where they should set up shop. Institutions big and small use census-derived data to decide how to set goals, distribute resources, and evaluate outcomes. An accurate census is critical for all.
The U.S. is not alone in conducting a census. Most countries around the world perform some type of enumeration at least once every 10 years, and some once every five years. Others like Germany and Scandinavian countries use a constantly updated register-based census model, in which existing data is collected from administrative registries, such as municipalities and federal employment agencies to track population change.