The 2020 Census has Funding Problems

The U.S. Census counts every resident in the United States. It is mandated by Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution and takes place every 10 years. The 2020 Census has funding problems, and this could potentially create issues for genealogists and non-genealogists.

The data collected by the decennial census determines the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives. The data is also used to distribute billions in federal funds to local communities.

For genealogists, every U.S. Census, is important because of the genealogy information each can provide. Genealogists can access information from the U.S. Censuses from 1850 through 1940, which includes information like:
* names of family members
* their ages at a certain point in time
* their state or country of birth
* their parent’s birthplaces
* year of immigration
* street address
* marriage status and years of marriage
* occupation(s)
* value of their home and personal belongings
* the crops that they grew (in agricultural schedules)

Before the 1850 Census, few of those details were recorded. From 1790-1840, only the head of household is listed and the number of household members in selected age groups.

On May 9, 2017, the director of the U.S. Census Bureau, John H. Thompson, announced that he was resigning. This was unexpected. There was no immediate indication of who would be taking over his position. Eventually, that will be resolved.

It is unclear why John H. Thompson chose to retire. What is clear is that there was a problem with the budget for the 2020 Census. The Washington Post describes the situation this way:

“The decennial count typically requires a massive ramp-up in spending in the years immediately preceding it, involving extensive testing, hiring and publicity. However, in late April Congress approved only $1.47 billion for the Census Bureau in the 2017 fiscal year, about 10 percent below what the Obama administration had requested. And experts say the White House’s proposed budget for 2018, $1.5 billion, falls far below what is needed.”

Science Magazine reported that without more funding, census officials will not be able to vet all the new systems planned for 2020. The Hill reported that the U.S. Census Bureau had planned on using more electronics as a means of collecting data.

What does this mean for genealogists? Unless things change, it could mean that the 2020 U.S. Census will not have accurate information, or that it might take longer than typical to put together. It is hard to predict what will ultimately happen with the 2020 U.S. Census.

Related Articles at

* Investigate 1880 US Federal Census

* U.S. Federal Censuses

* 1940 Census Day has Arrived

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