How the National Census Ensures Accuracy—and Why It’s Important

accuracy of the U.S. census

Every 10 years, the United States government does a census to count the population, as well as get information about certain things like birth rates, demographics and income levels, as well as other questions that may vary from census to census. Many people, however, wonder what ensures the accuracy of the census. Here’s what you need to know about the ins and outs of the national census.

1. How Does the National Census Work?

The first phase of the census is a self-report phase, where the census requests that people give them information of their own volition. The census sends out forms to every household in the United States, but in 2020, people were also allowed to fill out the census online. Then, for anyone who doesn’t send back the census, census workers come around to try and make in-person contact to take the information.

Last year, 2020, had the highest percentage of people self-reporting since 2000, with 67% of all households voluntarily filling out the census information and returning it. While this leaves 33% of the United States that the Census Bureau had to pursue for more information, this is still a great success, as self-reported information tends to be the most high-quality and accurate.

2. What Happens to the People Who Don’t Get Counted?

For people who aren’t counted by either census workers or themselves, the Census Bureau tries to get their information either by a proxy, through other records, or through a process called “imputation.” Proxies are people a person knows, like a neighbor or relative, that give information about a person in another household. The Census Bureau can also use information from another source like the Social Security Administration to fill in the gaps.

The last-ditch attempt comes if the Census Bureau has exhausted all of these avenues and still doesn’t have enough information. If they don’t have the right information, they use imputation, which fills in the household’s information with statistically likely information based on the location and general population information.

3. What Does the National Census’s Information Do?

The information the Census Bureau collects for the National Census does a lot. It’s what helps states decide information regarding funding and districting, for example, which means it has a direct impact on the United States government. It’s also a crucial part of determining things like emergency services and the number of schools in an area.

On a private level, the Census Bureau information helps many companies understand more about the United States. If a group wants to advertise to people of a specific age, they may shift their advertising more to a specific area if they find that a certain city has a higher percentage of people at that age. The National Census fundamentally changes a lot of things about the United States.

4. How Can I Access Information From the National Census?

The full data from the 2020 National Census isn’t out yet. However, once it is out, you can get it directly from the National Census database. Census data is also a crucial part of the information that many public record search engines use to provide you with information on certain individuals, which means you’ll also be able to find it through PeopleFinders.

When you perform a people search with PeopleFinders, some of the information you find will likely have come not only from the 2020 census but also from censuses dating many decades back. PeopleFinders uses this data to give you a better picture of anyone that you’re looking into. It can also use census data to draw connections between people, helping you with genealogy and family history research.


At the end of the day, the National Census is an amazing process. Over two-thirds of all households in the United States self-report their information to help make sure the country has the information necessary to understand more about its people. With that information, you can learn more about your past and about other people. When you search with PeopleFinders, you can be sure the information you provided through the National Census is helping you search more effectively.

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