Counting for Dollars 2020: The Role of the Decennial Census in the Geographic Distribution of Federal Funds

September 03, 2019

As directed by Congress, several hundred federal financial assistance programs rely on data derived from the Decennial Census to guide the geographic distribution of funds to states, counties, cities, and households. To better understand the fiscal impacts of the upcoming 2020 Census on states and local areas, the Counting for Dollars Project aims to:

  • identify each federal program that geographically distributes financial assistance based, in whole or part, on data derived from the Decennial Census; and
  • ascertain the connection between Decennial Census accuracy and the equitable distribution of funds to states and local areas.
Note: The total amount of federal funds gained per each person counted across all census-guided assistance programs cannot be calculated. To understand why, see "Impacts of Census Accuracy on Federal Funds Distribution to States and Local Areas" (p. 4 of Brief #5). It is possible to calculate funds generated per each person counted only for the handful of programs that rely on the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP). Figures by state are provided in Brief #2.
Briefs -- with Tables for U.S., States, and Local Areas
The distribution in FY2015 by state of $590 billion from 16 large federal financial assistance programs based on data derived from the 2010 Census. Note: The analyses in this brief have been superseded by those in Brief #5.
Determination of the fiscal costs of a decennial census undercount on state treasuries for five U.S. Department of Health and Human Services programs that use the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP), which is based on the 2010 Census population count. In FY2015, FMAP-determined reimbursements to and payments from state governments totaled $286.1 billion. 
Fifty-five census-guided federal financial assistance programs are targeted to rural communities. For FY2016, spending across these programs totaled $30.7 billion.
Two-page summary of brief prepared for The Census Project (September 2018)
Census-based state allocation formulas for 17 USDA Rural Development programs: 7 CFR Part 1940 Subpart L
This report identifies 52 census-derived datasets used by the federal government to geographically allocate financial assistance, tax credits, and procurement contracts.
This report describes the FY2016 distribution by state of $883.1 billion from 55 large federal expenditure programs based on data derived from the 2010 Census. In the box below, a one-sheet handout is provided for the nation and each state. Also provided are a spreadsheet of 55 programs by the 50 states and DC and a worksheet of characteristics by program (including type of recipients, type of federal financial assistance, census-derived datasets by type of use, and link to Congressional Research Service primer.)
For each state and DC, tables of the local allocation of funds from five federal programs--Title I Grants to Local Education Agencies, Community Development Block Grants--Entitlement, and three workforce training programs authorized by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (Adult Activities, Youth Activities, Dislocated Workers)
#7 Federal Programs that Geographically Allocate Financial Assistance Based on Decennial Census Data (forthcoming)
 A complete listing of all federal financial assistance programs that rely on census-derived data to allocate funding to geographic areas. Data for the nation only.



2020 Census: How the Count Affects State Budgets

Presented to the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO) annual conference, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, July 23, 2018

Counting For Dollars: A Study of Census-guided Financial Assistance to Rural America

Presented to the Congressional Rural Caucus, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC, October 11, 2018

The Role of the 2020 Census in Distributing Federal Funds to Maryland Nonprofits

Presented to Maryland Nonprofits, March 20, 2019

The Role of the ACS in the Distribution of Federal Funding

Presented at the ACS Data Users Conference, Washington, DC, May 14, 2019

The Economic Impacts of the 2020 Census and Business Uses of Federal Data

Written testimony submitted to Joint Economic Committee, U.S. Congress, May 22, 2019

The Census, SCOTUS & The Economy

Podcast interview, Joint Economic Committee Democrats, recorded May 22, 2019, released May 30, 2019

The Role of the 2020 Census in Distributing Federal Funds to Metro Washington

Presented at "Interventions that Work: 2020 Census & Hard-to-Reach Communities," Washington, DC, June 6, 2019

Making it Count: The Role of the 2020 Census in the Geographic Distribution of Federal Funds by County

Webinar presentation to the National Association of Counties, June 13, 2019

The Role of the 2020 Census in the Geographic Distribution of Federal Funds

Presented at annual conference of Association of Public Data Users, July 10, 2019


Citizenship Question -- Federal Court Expert Reports and Declarations
On the impact of the inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 Census on the geographic allocation of federal financial assistance to states and areas

  • Southern District, New York

Expert report (9/7/18)

Declaration (10/23/18)

  • Northern District, California

Expert report (9/18/18)

Declaration (12/28/18)

  • Maryland

Expert report (10/2/18)

Declaration (1/14/19)


Resources for Journalists, Advocates, and Op-Ed Writers

Denise-Marie Ordway, "7 tips for covering the 2020 US census," Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, July 9, 2019

Examples of media articles that capably discuss Counting for Dollars 2020 research:

Michael Macagnone, "2020 census affects more than representation, billions at stake," Roll Call, July 22, 2019.
Ally J. Levine and Ashlyn Still, "The Census Question," Reuters Graphics, June 3, 2019 (revised July 11, 2019).
Jacob Fischler, "States spend big on make-or-break 2020 census," Roll Call, May 9, 2019.

Census Tracts with High Likelihood of Low Response -- Maps and Data 

The Low Response Score (LRS): A Metric to Locate, Predict, and Manage Hard-to-Survey Populations -- the basis for ROAM
Response Outreach Area Mapper (ROAM), Census Bureau
HTC 2020, Mapping Service, City University of New York -- "Mapping Hard to Count (HTC) Communities for a Fair and Accurate 2020 Census"

2010 Census Coverage Measurement: Estimates for States, Places, and Counties (scroll down to dropdown box)

Estimates of the 2010 Census undercount for each state and each county and place with a population of 100,000 or more. Estimates include net undercount and components of census coverage (correct enumerations, erroneous enumerations, omissions, and whole-person imputations).

Terri Ann Lowenthal, "Counting for Dollars: Why It Matters," Leadership Conference Education Fund, April 17, 2018.