As we grapple with the spread of COVID-19 and its implications for our lives, we need to remember that public health experts, first responders and government officials rely on data from the U.S. Census to make critical decisions. Everything from the size and number of hospitals to the amount of emergency resources funneled to communities is influenced by census data. An accurate count could literally mean the difference between life and death.
But when we get past the immediate public health crisis of COVID-19—and we will get past it—the census has a number of other far-reaching impacts. Retailers use demographic data from the census to decide where to build stores and what to sell. Companies determine where to create job opportunities based on census information. Government agencies allocate funding around the country by using data from the census. The talent starring in our favorite TV shows is, in part, determined by data from the census; after all, content creators want to tell stories that reflect the actual population and resonate with audiences.