U.S. Census Bureau Definition

What is the United States Census Bureau?

The US Census Bureau is a principal agency of the United States federal statistical system that is responsible for conducting the national census at least once every 10 years. The population of the United States is counted in the census.

The Bureau is responsible for producing data about the American people and the economy. The US Census Bureau is a division of the United States Department of Commerce.

Key points to remember

  • The US Census Bureau is responsible for conducting the national census at least once every 10 years.
  • The US Census Bureau is also responsible for producing US population data and surveys of the economy and economic activity.
  • The Census Bureau is a division of the US Department of Commerce.
  • Since 1942, the Census Bureau has been headquartered in Suitland, Maryland.

Understanding the United States Census Bureau

Data collected by the US Census Bureau is analyzed and used by policymakers who govern the country and make economic decisions that affect day-to-day business. The Bureau collects data on the trade balance and foreign imports and exports, and reports the data to the government and the general public. Some of the data collected by the Bureau is used by the conference board to produce its composite indexes of leading, lagging and coincident indicators.

History of the United States Census Bureau

The first US census, mandated by the US Constitution, was taken in 1790 by marshals on horseback. At that time, census results revealed that 3,929,214 people lived in the country, with the three most populous states being Virginia (747,610), Pennsylvania (434,373), and North Carolina (393,751). A decennial census gradually developed throughout the 19th century.

In the 1800s, the census also collected vital information about the demographic, agricultural, and economic segments of the country. At that time, the Census Bureau was a temporary office, but the work of processing all of these data points kept the office open for many decades. Congress enacted legislation creating a permanent census office within the Department of the Interior on March 6, 1902.

The Census Bureau was transferred to the new Commerce and Labor Department in 1903, and when Commerce and Labor split into separate departments in 1913, the bureau remained within the Commerce Division.

The United States Census Bureau today

Today, the Bureau’s mission is to be the leading national provider of quality data on the population and economy of the United States.The Bureau’s programs can be divided into two broad categories: demographic surveys and economic surveys. Demographic surveys include the Decennial Census of Population and Housing, the American Community Survey (ACS), the Current Population Survey (CPS)the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) and the American Housing Survey (AHS).

Economic surveys include a survey of manufacturing, construction, minerals, services, finance and insurance industries; minority and women-owned business surveys; among others. Also included are foreign trade surveys and data, economic census, business classification, and IRS household and business data collection. It also publishes data relating to the United States new home sales and construction expenses.

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