Making Everyone Count, Coronavirus Goes Viral, Davos Debates


  • Celebrating the Census
  • Going Viral
  • The Dish On Davos

An old management aphorism tells us we can’t manage what we don’t measure. Managing a country with more than 330 million residents is no small task, and it must start with an effort to identify all residents. The basis for this will be the 2020 U.S. Census. The results of the Census will be vital for the function of the country. It will pinpoint and quantify several demographic challenges that will shape our outlook on the economy.

The Census is one of the few federal government functions stated explicitly in the U.S. Constitution. Article I requires an “enumeration” of all persons in the United States in order to apportion representation in the House of Representatives. The count of legislators then determines each state’s number of Electoral College votes. With two recent Presidential elections determined by an electoral outcome that differed from the popular vote, this allocation receives much attention.

Weekly Economic Commentary - 01/31/20 - Chart 1

Beyond political outcomes, the population count is used to allocate infrastructure investments and other expenditures at all levels of government. In total, the bureau estimates 132 federal government programs used its data to distribute more than $675 billion in government funds in the year 2015. More broadly, the Census results are publicly available and are put to use for countless purposes. Businesses can supplement their forecasts with Census projections to plan their expansions into new geographic markets. State and local governments can allocate resources locally without needing to perform surveys of their own. Academics can perform endless research using the results.