What Is A Census?

Census statistics provide demographic, social, and economic information to the government.
Census statistics provide demographic, social, and economic information to the government.

A census is an official process of acquiring, recording, and analyzing information regarding a given population. The survey is of carried out in a systematic manner within a given period of time and a defined territory. A census can be carried out on human or animal population. The enumeration process can be carried out periodically.

Importance of Census

Census statistics establish a numeric profile of the target population hence provide demographic, social, and economic information. Data from the census can assist in establishing population density, the kind of labor available, and employment opportunities. The statistics assist the government in the provision of services such as healthcare, education system, and other infrastructure. Since the government gets revenue from the citizens, the census will assist in knowing the number of taxable adults. Consequently, the national income will be distributed equitably. Carrying out of a census is of paramount importance to ensure that each community gets the right representation in government.

History of Census

The word census was derived from a Latin word “censere” meaning to estimate. It was practiced in ancient Rome to assist in the administration of Roman Empire as early as 6th century BCE. Every five years the citizens were counted in terms of numbers, properties, duties, and privileges. China and India have one of the world’s earliest preserved enumeration results. The two countries have census records dating AD 2 and 300 BCE respectively. In Egypt, the first census was carried out in the late middle kingdom. According to Herodotus, Every resident had to declare to the Pharaoh his residence and income.

In ancient Greece, the census was carried out in all the cities. In Ancient Israel, the census is mentioned in the Bible in the book of Exodus 30:11-16 where the Israelites were commanded to pay per capita tax for the upkeep of the Tabernacle. The Biblical book of numbers was named after enumerating the Israelites. The New Testament links the birth of Jesus to a Census event. Other empires with documented census activities are the Spanish Empire carried out between 1579 and 1585, the Inca Empire in the 15th century, and the Medieval Europe census in 1086 by William the 1st of England to assist in the taxation of land.

Modern Census Around the World

The process of the census has greatly evolved to incorporate technology. Modern gadgets such as computers and mobile phones are incorporated to increase accuracy.

The United States Constitution and the federal law allows for the census to be carried out every ten years. The results enable the US government to apportion the right number of members to the House of Representatives. The census statistics enables proper allocation of federal funding for economic and social programs. The first US census was carried out in 1790 by Federal marshals. From the 19th century through to 1940, enumeration was accomplished via political districts. Every ward was to conduct own census. From 1950 census forms were sent by mail to every resident with the United States Post Office. This was to enhance competency and accuracy. Later, computer technology was introduced.

By law, individual records of any census should be sealed for 72 years. Therefore on April 2, 2012, the data that was released to the public was the 1940 census. Various States in the US may carry out the independent census. Massachusetts conducted census after five years until 1985. The 2010 US census indicated that there were about 308 million people in the country.


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