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The U.S. Census Why Counting Counts for Business
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The U.S. Census Why Counting Counts for Business

Mike Mancini, Vice President, Data Product Management

For a country of more than 300 million persons spread out over 3.6 million square miles, counting the entire populace is an immense logistical feat. To accomplish it, the Census Bureau mails approximately 134 million questionnaires that were to be completed by April 1. That would cost nearly $60 million in postage alone if the Census Bureau did not get free postage from the United States Postal Service (USPS). The collective weight of all 360 million printed questionnaires (from all three mailings) is nearly 12 million pounds, and if stacked on top of one another, would be nearly 29 miles high.

Who uses it and why?

Put simply, the census is used for three primary reasons:

  1. To alter the state-by-state appointment of seats in the House of Representatives.
  2. To determine how much money the states receive back from the federal government.
  3. To provide demographic data used by marketers today.

While congressional representation and distribution of federal funds is vitally important, the third reason represents big business. The U.S. census drives business intelligence in America today and if you have ever examined demographics about consumers, you are likely an indirect user of census data.

From modeling and segmentation strategies to sampling plans and projection results, from site evaluations to trade area definitions, it may hardly seem possible that a once-per-decade survey is a catalyst for the efficiency and competitiveness of the American marketplace.

How is census data used?

Most modern corporations have six key disciplines related to marketing and they all use some element of census data:

  1. Strategic Planning & Market Research
  2. National Media Strategy
  3. Local Market Promotion
  4. Product Distribution
  5. Channel Management
  6. Customer Relationship Management

Learn how each of these integrated functions rely on data intelligence that focuses on the core component of any successful marketing plan—the consumer. You may not recognize the role the Census Bureau plays in carving up the country into statistically reliable and stable units of geography that provide much the foundation for modern Geographic Information Systems and their application.