When Was the Last Census? This Data Actually Influences Government In Many Ways
Every ten years, the federal government administers a pretty basic questionnaire, with the goal of accurately tracking population growth and decline and noting major demographic changes. That may sound bland, but the information gathered in the census is anything but boring. Shifts in local population makeup impact state representation in the House of Representatives, not to mention voting patterns. Also important is knowing how many people are living in which areas, because it gives the government accurate information about where to send annual dollars for infrastructure funding – more than $400 billion worth. The last national United States census was conducted in 2010.
When it comes to representative government, knowing the population is crucial. Just look at Texas and Florida, two states that gained House Representatives based on census data gathered in 2010. The New York Times put together a nifty map showing how population growth/decline affected certain states in the makeup of House representatives. (Not such great news for Ohio and New York.)
In terms of voting patterns, demographics matter enormously. The Wall Street Journal noted that in 2012, President Obama outperformed Republican nominee Mitt Romney in counties with younger populations. But like most Republican candidates, Romney did better in areas with older communities. According to recent polls, that trend continues, with Donald Trump winning amongst the 65+ demographic and Clinton as the preferred choice of millennials (by far).
Another predictable breakdown of voting patterns accompanies ethnic demographics. Hispanic voters have been a major target of Clinton's campaign, as the numbers of voting Hispanics have been on a long-trend increase. In her campaign announcement video, Clinton featured a Spanish-speaking business owner, clearly signaling she has always intended to include and highlight this growing voting bloc in her presidential run.
When it comes to government funding, census data is invaluable. More than $4 trillion is distributed during the 10 years between each census, and that money goes toward schools, roads, and hospitals.
For those interested in more detailed views of the 2010 census data, and what it suggests in terms of changing demographic trends, a number of sites offer surprisingly fun interactive maps. The government's official census site offers breakdowns by population, race, age, ethnicity, and household (as in, the average number of people living in one house). The New York Times offers a more user-friendly map, color-coded and divided up down to the county level, designed for the wonky.