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Public Administrators: How Much Do You Know About the U.S. Census?

Learn more about these vital records that inform decisions and policies that touch the lives of the U.S. populace.

Drafting an emergency management plan. Projecting future transportation needs. Preparing annual municipal budgets. These are some of the ways public administration professionals use U.S. census data to support the communities they serve.


Every 10 years, the U.S. Census Bureau counts the population of the United States and its territories: Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Through a questionnaire sent to every residence, the U.S. Census Bureau collects data that determines how federal funds are allocated, how many seats each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives, and where to draw congressional, state, and local district boundaries, among other things.

If you work in public administration or are thinking about earning a public administration degree, U.S. census data may guide your work for years to come. Test your knowledge with these seven questions and fun facts about the U.S. census.

  1. What will the first numbers from the census be used for?
    They will determine how many seats each state gets in the U.S. House of Representatives.1
  2. When was the first U.S. census conducted?
    In 1790, with Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson leading the effort. U.S. marshals and their assistants traveled by horse and on foot, collecting data on forms made from animal skins and parchment. Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution requires that the census occur every 10 years.2
  3. What demographic group is most likely to be missed in the census count?
    Young children.1 An estimated 1 million children age 5 and younger weren’t counted in the 2010 census.3
  4. Online or by phone, people can complete the census questionnaire in three languages: English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole. True or false?
    Partially true! In addition to those three, there are 10 others: Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Portuguese, and Japanese.4
  5. One city has held the title of “Most Populous” since the first U.S. census. Which one is it?
    New York. In 1790, the census counted 33,131 people. By the 2010 census, New York had close to 8.2 million people.5
  6. Is there a citizenship question on the 2020 census?
    No. The census asks how many people are living or staying at each address, and then asks for each person’s name, sex, age, date of birth, relationship, Hispanic origin, and race. It also asks whether the respondent’s housing unit is owned or rented, and for contact information.6
  7. Can businesses use census data?
    Yes. The U.S. Census Bureau says these vital statistics “will be valuable to businesses, as the results will provide a rich set of data on the communities they serve, including population trends and growth projections. Business owners rely on census results to make decisions, such as where to open new stores, restaurants, factories, or offices, where to expand operations, where to recruit employees, and which products and services to offer.”7

Chart the Future With an MPA Degree

A Master of Public Administration (MPA) can help position you for a career in government, politics, health, public affairs, business, and many other arenas. And in roles like city manager, public health administrator, operations manager, government relations officer, and human services agency manager, you can use U.S. census data to help inform your decisions and plans.

As an adult professional, if you earn your degree in Walden University’s online MPA program, you can continue working full time in your career as you gain new skills and knowledge. In Walden’s public administration degree program, you’ll engage in coursework and research designed to help you learn to create programs and policies that support the public good. You’ll also have the opportunity to participate in simulations of real-life scenarios in the virtual city of New Harbor.

When you select Walden for your online MPA degree, you may choose a General Program of study or one of six optional specializations: Emergency Management, Law and Public Policy, Nonprofit Management and Leadership, or Diversity and Social Justice.

In a year with the decennial U.S. census, it’s a great time to earn an MPA—and make your career count.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an online Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree program with multiple specializations. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.


Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,