What is the U.S. Census?

The U.S. Census is a survey that the United States government takes every ten years, according to Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution. The survey asks questions about you, your family, your friends and their families, and all the other families or individuals who live in the 105 million households that are in the United States. The survey gathers information about how many people live in your house, how old you are, if you are male or female, and what race you are white, black, American Indian, Asian, or Hispanic. In 1790 the first census counted 4 million people living in the United States. According to the 2010 census, there were 308.7 million.

The census count tells a state how many people it can send to represent it in the U.S. Congress, which includes both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Every state sends two people to the Senate. But the House of Representatives is different the number of people a state sends to the House is based on that state's population. According to the 2010 census, the state with the smallest population is Wyoming, while the state with the largest population is California. Wyoming can send only one person to the House, but California can send 53 people to the House of Representatives.

The census also gives information about everyday things, so that the government can tell which states and regions of the country need improvements. If a town has more children living in it than it had ten years ago (when the last census count was taken), this would be a good place to build another school. Or, if workers in a city are spending too much time getting to work, this would be a good place to build more roads or increase public transportation like subways and buses.


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