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man holding a briefcase that says US Census 1990 knocking on the front door of a house
U.S. Census enumerator, Michael Jenkins, May 1990.

The US Census – A Business Librarian’s Perspective

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This post was written by Lynn Weinstein, Business Reference Librarian in the Science, Technology, and Business Division.

The Census has been increasingly in the news these days, as the pandemic has caused its operations to be curtailed. The Census responses are of critical importance because they can impact the drawing of congressional districts, the federal funding of programs, and they provide crucial statistics related to industries.

As a Business Reference and Research Specialist in ST&B, I depend on census data from both the Decennial Census as well as other censuses, to answer questions for patrons. Census figures are extremely valuable to entrepreneurs, who look at demographics and local business statistics when deciding how to launch a business. Our Small Business Hub LibGuide notes that we have valuable subscription tools at the Library of Congress which provide small businesses with socio-demographic and economic data including variables like demographics, employment, housing, market segments, businesses, consumer spending and brand preference (down to zip code details) that is in part fueled by the Census data.

The Entrepreneur’s Reference Guide to Small Business Information emphasizes the importance of examining a variety of sources of statistical data for making business decisions. Including Economic Indicators, the platform which provides access to data and digital content from the U.S. Census Bureau, and the  Annual Capital Expenditures Survey (ACES).

two women standing at a open door facing each other one woman is carrying paperwork and wearing a coat and hat
Taking the 1920 Census,National Photo Company, 1920.

Our Real Estate Industry: A Resource Guide highlights government statistical information and reports, including  important Census resources such as the  American Housing Survey (AHS), the Building Permits Survey, Housing Data, Historical Housing Data, Construction Industry Information, and more. This data is helpful in looking at construction trends, housing inequities, as well as housing patterns such as homeownership, characteristics of neighborhoods, and housing tenure.

The proper allocation of resources based on Census data is particularly important in our current national health emergency, when accurate numbers direct the allocation of lifesaving resources, and an undercount could result in an inadequate allocation of resources for ten years. As of August 14, 2020, the national response rate is 63.5% in this first online Census. It’s not too late to complete this important form – it is available until September 30. Additional information may be found on the Census 2020 site:


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Update! Business has a new guide U.S. Census Connections: A Resource Guide for anyone looking to understand the U.S. decennial and economic census publications in the Library of Congress.

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