By Rep. Frank Lucas
Shortly after the inauguration of the United States’ first president in New York City, the First United States Congress signed the Census Act of 1790.
Signed into law by President George Washington, Vice President John Adams, and Speaker of the House Frederick Muhlenberg, the Census Act of 1790 called for “the marshals of the several districts of the United States shall be, and they are hereby authorized and required to cause the number of the inhabitants within their respective districts to be taken;”.
Since 1790, our nation has taken a count of its population every decade, ensuring that our representative democracy functioned properly and responsibly. Thus, the importance of an accurate count has become invaluable.
In rural areas especially, it is vitally important that accurate counts of the population are recorded in order to provide true and equal representation from our nation’s capitol to the state legislature.
Because of the importance of providing such an accurate count, several states have begun investing in initiatives ensuring that their census outreach programs provide as much of an accurate count as possible.
Similar to how exploration has influenced our nation’s geographical boundaries, time and social influences have also affected the make-up of an ever-increasing population.
Following our Nation’s first census, the needs and interests became more complex resulting in a more detailed process for providing more information regarding our country’s civic, social, and economic well-being.
After the boom of the Industrial Revolution, the U.S. Census of 1810 included detailed commerce data relating to the successes of America’s manufacturing industry. Thirty years later in 1840, the first questions relating to agriculture were introduced- paving the way for what would become the United States Department of Agriculture’s annual Census of Agriculture. And in 1850, questions relating to the influence of our nation’s societal and cultural factors such as taxation, crime, and education were added- ensuring even more detailed data was included for the make up of our federal programs.
Decade after decade, the U.S. Census is a portrait detailing our nation’s economic and social characteristics. And the importance of each survey can not be underestimated.
Since 1790, the U.S. Census has accounted for congressional representation but over time the census has headed additional responsibility in ensuring that our republic truly represent the people.
In addition to shaping representation on the federal level, census figures are used in the apportionment and redistricting at the state and local government level ensuring that equal representation is found on all levels of our government.
Whether it’s allocating federal, state, and local grants, revenue-sharing programs, and even basic research for our academic institutions, the census is vitally important to how we shape our future.
U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas has served the 3rd District of Oklahoma since 2003.