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Regular population censuses are conducted by most countries. They are used to apportion political representation, to estimate needs for services such as education and health care, and to guide the distribution of resources among places. The United States has conducted a census of its population every decade since 1790. Initially, the census was required only to determine the size of congressional districts, but it has acquired many other purposes since then. The census provides both a historical and a geographic record of our changing society. Geographic summaries make sense of the data and protect respondent confidentiality. The growing availability of GIS software has significantly improved access to and use of census data. This entry explains the purposes of the U.S. census, outlines how the census ...

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