Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

2020 U.S. Census: Resources

United States Census

The United States Census Bureau

The Census Bureau is the federal government's largest statistical agency. It is dedicated to providing current facts and figures about America's people, places, and economy. Federal law protects the confidentiality of all the information it collects. 

History At-a-Glance

Thomas Jefferson directed the first census in 1790. As required by the U.S. Constitution, a census has been taken every 10 years thereafter. In 1840, the Census Act authorized the establishment of a centralized Census Office. In 1902, the Census Office became a permanent organization within the Department of Interior. A year later, it was renamed the Bureau of the Census and moved to the new Department of Commerce and Labor.

Census data is used to determine the distribution of Congressional seats to states:

  • mandated by the U.S. Constitution
  • apportion seats in the U.S. House of Representatives
  • define legislature districts, school district assignment areas and other important functional areas of government

Learn more about the Census Redistricting Data Program.

To make decisions about what community services to provide --

  For example, changes in your community are crucial to many planning decisions, such as where to:

  • provide services for the elderly
  • build new roads and schools
  • locate job training centers
  • distribute federal funds to local, state and tribal governments each year


Census data affects how funding is allocated to communities for:

  • neighborhood improvements
  • public health
  • education
  • transportation
  • and much more
  • to provide Age Search information for:
    • qualifying for Social Security and other retirement benefits
    • passport applications
    • proving relationship in settling estates
    • researching genealogy or a historical topic

Census Bureau

Understanding Census Data

The standard hierarchy of census geographic entities displays the relationships between legal, administrative, and statistical boundaries maintained by the U.S. Census Bureau. The hierarchy provides a quick and easy way to see how the different geographic entities at the Census Bureau relate to one another. In other words, it shows how different geographic areas may, or may not, be related. It depicts relationships with a line and shows where relationships do not exist by displaying entities on different line tracts.

US Census Bureau. (2010). Retrieved from


**Note: Be aware that American FactFinder will serve as an archive system for accessing historical data until Spring 2020. To explore Census data after July 2019, please use The new platform is now the primary way to access Census Bureau data, including the 2018 American Community Survey, 2017 Economic Census, 2020 Census and more. All new data previously released on American FactFinder will be released on the new website.

  • Economic surveys are conducted monthly, quarterly, and yearly. They cover selected sectors of the nation's economy and supplement the Economic Census with more-frequent information about the dynamic economy. These surveys yield more than 400 annual economic reports, including principal economic indicators.
  • Sponsored surveys are demographic and economic surveys that are conducted for other government agencies. They include the Current Population Survey, the National Health Interview Survey, and the National Survey of College Graduates.

Guidance and Handbooks


Additional Data Resources