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What Are Census Records?

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  • Written By: Renee Booker
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 13 July 2018
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In many countries around the world, the government keeps census records as a way to accurately count the population of the country and gain demographic information regarding the people living in the country. Within the United States, the census is mandated by the U.S. Constitution and takes place every 10 years. Although the information contained in census records may vary by jurisdiction, within the United States, census records contain information regarding the number of people who live in a particular home and their occupations, the income level of the household, and the race or national origin of the household members.

The information acquired as part of the census is ultimately used for a variety of purposes. In the United States, census records provide the basis for determining how many seats a state has in the House of Representatives. In addition to affecting a state's representation in the government, the information contained in census records also directly affects the distribution of billions of dollars in federal funds earmarked for everything from welfare programs to highway construction.

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The census is conducted once every 10 years in the United States. A census form is mailed to every household and any other facility where people may be permanently living such as a retirement home or even a prison. The U.S. Census Bureau will then follow up in person or by telephone if a survey is not returned by the return deadline. The questions on the census survey are basic questions regarding who lives in the household, the age and national origin or race of each household member, and the household income. Answering honestly is important, as the data collected from the surveys is used to determine how much money a state or area will receive in federal funds in many cases.

Another benefit of the vast archive of census data available in many countries around the world is that it may be used for genealogical research. By researching census records, a person may be able to accurately ascertain when an ancestor first officially appeared in a country. Additional information may also be gathered, such as the occupation of the person and additional family members he or she listed at the time of the census. From the list of additional family members, a person may be able to find marriage or death records which may add to the family tree research. Census records are public information and may be researched online through many genealogical research companies.

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