2019 U.S. constitution Day – The Constitution of the United States & The Census – by Andrew Bailey. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

2019 U.S. constitution Day – The Constitution of the United States & The Census – by Andrew Bailey. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

There are a few items I carry on me at all times and my pocket Constitution of the United States is usually an item you can find with me. This document has such a rich history and establishes the most powerful government in our modern world. Delegates from across a young nation gathered to chart a path in history in the year 1787. Although their endeavor had much uncertainty, they have left us with a relatively stable future. The Constitution outlines the fundamental functions and responsibilities of our three branch federal government–and it may be argued many of these functions are still up for interpretation today. One example of a responsibility delegated to the Congress, which has seen much change in operation over the years, has been the execution of the Decennial Census of Population & Housing.

Article I, Section 2 of The Constitution of the United States charges the U.S. Congress with the authority to determine how the Census will be conducted, and defines the political purpose of the Census – apportionment of seats in the House of Representatives among the states.[1] The first Census was conducted in 1790 and President George Washington gave a report to Congress in October of the following year. With this information, Congress was able to apportion representation of each state accordingly in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Since the year 1790, the United States has conducted a Census every ten years, and the U.S. still has the claim for world’s longest-running continuous national census.[3] Simply put, the objective of the Census Bureau is to count all residents of the United States and to attach each person to a place–an address or facility.1 However, this is easier said than done in the 21st Century, when a resident of the United States and the state of Minnesota can hop on a plane at 7:00 AM and be in Maine by lunch time, or for that matter, be out of the country in less than a handful of hours. One of the challenges the U.S. Census Bureau faces is a globalized world, in which people travel, migrate, and an individual may even have more than one place of residence.

To alleviate the concern of sharing personal information with the federal government, the United States Census Bureau has a strict policy on what information is aggregated and no private information is shared with the public. Title 1[3] of the United States Code ensures the confidentiality of Census records, and establishes penalties for violating the law; furthermore, all Census data is sealed and secured for 72 years.[3] It is worth noting that in 1790, all information gathered from the Census was posted in public, so the collected data could be made available and residents would be able to ensure the information collected was accurate.

Today, the Congress and the Census Bureau is at liberty to ask additional questions besides the number of residents at a given unit. However, in conducting the Census, the secretary of commerce must report to Congress no later than three years before Census day, the subject matters that will be included in the next Census, and no later than two years before each Census, the secretary must report the questions that will be included on the Census form.1 The Census also counts residents of the United States regardless of their citizenship status.[3] In completing the Census and reaching a final count, the number of the U.S. population must be reported to the president by December 31st of the given year the Census is conducted.

Today, it is common for most countries in the world to conduct a census and specific guidelines are offered by the United Nations on how a census should be conducted. A few of these guidelines include: individual enumeration (people are counted as individuals), universality (all people are counted), defined territory (all people in a defined territory must be counted), and publication (results must be compiled and published by the Census Bureau in the United States).[4]

The Decennial Census is a massive undertaking and to be successful, it requires the support from the entire American public. The 2010 Census was conducted through almost 500 local Census offices that supervised the work of several hundred thousand field enumerators.1 Not only does executing the Census take a lot of coordination, it is also very expensive. The cost of the 2010 Census was about 40 percent higher than the census of 2000 and it is estimated the 2020 Census could cost as much as $25 billion.[1]

Although the Decennial Census is an arduous process (and often a political one), it is important to keep in mind by administering the Census, Congress is only acting out its duty as written in the Constitution. The Census Bureau on the whole is a hard working group of public servants, and they rely heavily on the public for cooperation and good spirit. You can learn more about the 2020 Decennial Census by visiting: https://www.census.gov/partners/2020.html.

1. Anderson, M. J., Citro, C. F., & Salvo, J. J. (2013). Encyclopedia of the U.S. Census: from the Constitution to the American Community Survey (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: CQ Press.
2. Article I, Section 2 of The Constitution of the United States
3. Lavin, M. R. (1996). Understanding the Census A Guide for Marketers, Planners, Grant Writers and Other Data Users. Kenmore, NY: Epoch Book.
4. United Nations Statistics Division – Demographic and Social Statistics. (2017). Retrieved from https://unstats.un.org/unsd/demographic/sources/census/census3.htm


Andrew serves as an assistant editor for NSR. He is also the president of the St. Scholastica Student Senate. Andrew is leading the college’s celebration of the 2019 U.S. Constitution Day.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our guiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In five years we have published over 300 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our volunteer student editors and writers come from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). We have an all volunteer staff. The North Star Reports is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang and NSR Student Editors and Writers. For a brief summary of our history, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Professor Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports. Ellie Swanson and Marin Ekstrom, Assistant Managing Editors, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is fully funded by an annual donation from Professor Liang. The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy.


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21 responses to “2019 U.S. constitution Day – The Constitution of the United States & The Census – by Andrew Bailey. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

    • Rylee Whitney

      I greatly admire that you carry your pocket constitution with you regularly. I just want to compliment you on the informed and responsible citizen that you are. I slightly remember talking about the US census in 2010 when I was in high school, I believe I was in 7th grade. So though this is an important subject, at the time I did not really care about it, I hate to say. I thought the census was simply to count how many people were in the US. After reading your article I realize that it is much more than that. As I am going to school to be a high school history teacher, I hope to encounter students like you, that are eager and interested to be apart of our history. I definitely am going to do more research on the US census, as I am particularly interested on the types of questions that are asked on a census form. Thank you for all of the information and the excellent read.

    • Meghan McFarling

      This entire article was extremely interesting, but the fact that you carry a pocket-sized US Constitution with you at all times is something that literally made me LOL. You are absolutely iconic, and you have inspired me into buying a pocked-sized US Constitution for myself. Thank you for your intriguing take on the Constitution and for being you.

    • Toni Bishop

      Hi Andrew,
      Thank you so much for your article. I did not know much about the U.S. census before reading this article. All I knew is that they keep sending my roommates and I things in the mail telling us that we are required to fill this out. We have been pushing this off seeing that we did not feel like it was meaningful in our lives. Now that you have educated me on how important the census actually is I feel like I can take more pride on filling it out.
      Thank you,
      Toni Bishop

  1. Elijah Ortega

    Hello Andrew,
    This was quite an insightful passage to read. I find it intriguing that the US constitution is something you just have on your person with frequency. However, prior to reading this I was unaware of the history of the census. Census is seemingly a very important part of our Democratic society and I see the importance of spreading this history and educating others on the importance of this action that service our government has in place to better govern our great country.
    Thank you for the read.
    Elijah Ortega

  2. Itzayan Rocha


    I loved the insight on everything you wrote about the census. I don’t think that I ever payed much attention or took the appropriate time to care about what it was. I remember that when I was younger my parents filled the paper out, and there was a lot of doubt about filling this small sheet of paper out. My parents are undocumented, and writing that in a sheet of paper and sending it to the government feels like you are just turning yourself in. It is a scary thing to go through, but my parents did it, and we had to trust all of the regulations that the U.S put into the census. Thank you for giving me a new perspective on how it all works, it was a very interesting read.


  3. Emily Knoer

    Hello Andrew!
    I really enjoyed your article and I learned a lot about the census through it. I was unaware of how long the history of the census is and all of the rules that come along with gathering good data. From reading all of this I believe that it is important that we continue to perform censuses and that they are accurate in order to understand the demographics in our country. I am curious though about your opinion on Trump’s recent want to ask people if they are a citizen, and if you believe that is a good idea or not? I think it is good information to know how many people are not full citizens in the United States, but I do believe that the question would deter away many people from answering honestly if at all out of fear of repercussions.
    Thanks for the informative article!

  4. Audrey Tusken

    Andrew – I did not know so much went into executing the U.S. census before reading your post; it was very informative! Twenty five billion dollars seems like a ridiculous amount of money to me and I can think of countless ways that could be better spent to benefit citizens of the U.S. However, as you stated, the census is a Constitutional obligation and our country clearly still takes it seriously all of these years later. I am humbled by the Constitution and the freedoms it has provided us, and I wish that the entirety of the Republic acted with as much intention and efficiency as those who collect the Census data. We have a long way to grow in many avenues of our government and political scene, but it is comforting to be reminded of older practices that are still effectively in place.

  5. Ben Burner


    This was a very interesting article. I learned a lot about the census and how it works. I did not know that the census was every ten years. I thought it would’ve been like every five years. I learned a lot of information about the census, so thank you. It was surprising to me how much it costs to do the census. I see why they do it every ten years. Every year on U.S. Constitution Day at CSS I get my pocket Constitution. Last year it came in handy when I had U.S. History 1 and U.S. History 2 with Bill Miller. We used our pocket Constitution multiple times. Any of you that are reading and need a history class at CSS I suggest you take it with Bill Miller, he is a very interesting teacher and his class is fun. Thank you for leading the colleges U.S. Constitution Day. Thanks again for this article, I learned so new insights.


  6. Elizabeth Mirkin

    Hi Andrew,
    Thank you for your article. It was very different than anything I have read on these North Star reports. I think it’s so interesting that you keep a copy of the constitution with you! I was very unaware of the extensive history of the census. I never really took the time to think about it in this aspect. It has always been a mere source of data that I could use for research papers and homework assignments. I’m glad I took the time to read your article and look up few things up about this on my own. Now I know so much more!

  7. Angela Pecarina

    Andrew, I enjoyed reading your article. It is quite interesting that you carry a pocket Constitution with you at all times. I did not know much about the census prior to your article. I had a general idea but not much background information. Whenever I passed into a new city and saw the population sign I always wondered how they got there. I think for our generation especially knowledge of the Constitution seems to be running out.

  8. Gabrielle Trelstad


    This is such an informative article. I’ve never considered how connected the constitution and the census are until reading this article. I’ve also never thought about how globalization has impacted the census; it is interesting to think about the impact that travel, migration, and multiple residences can have on the census.

    After reading this, I feel much more aware of the importance of the census and its historical significance. Thank you for sharing your knowledge on this subject!


  9. Tamer Mische-Richter

    I will be using your article to educate a few of my peers who do not know the reason WHY we have a census. Something that I think many people assume is that the census only counts for citizens. As much of the controversy around the citizenship question on the 2020 census, I heard too many people convinced that the census was to count only citizens. One curiosity of mine was why the 72 years of sealed data? I’ll have to do a bit of research myself to see why there wasn’t a set round number.

  10. Jake Foster

    Hi Andrew,
    Not a lot of people nowadays seem to be so interested in Constitutional history like yourself. I think that it’s important that we try to remember the purpose of this critical document. But in saying that I also believe we should always try to keep it relevant. On the topic of the census, before I read this I never payed attention to it. I didn’t realize how complicated it was and I enjoyed learning something new.

  11. Karl

    Thank you for such an insightful article on the importance of the census. The census is something I had not paid much attention to until it was announced that Donald Trump wanted to ask people if they were citizens or not. What are your thoughts on this? Also, lawmakers use census data to re-draw congressional districts. This can change the course of elections. What are your thoughts on this? Regardless, the census is an important part of our democracy. It ensures that our population is properly represented in congress and that government money is being properly allocated.

  12. hannah Desmond

    I found your research very interesting, I never would have thought twice about our governments census, especially how expensive it is. You stated that with our constitution, we are ” the most powerful government in our modern world.” Thinking back to ninth grade history, Rome was once the most powerful government in the world. I know some people my say that our governmental power is similar to that of Rome’s. Do you think that our system will fall? With all the new technological advancements our society is creating, are we getting too ahead of ourselves? Like you said that conducting the census has grown harder and harder over the years because of globalization. Will globalization lead to a fall in our government?
    Thank you!

  13. Dan Salutz

    My knowledge of the the census was limited to the text that it is done every ten years but over all I find the process quite interesting. Without census records I would’ve never found out that my great grandfather lived in Iowa before moving to a lumber camp along the St Croix river before ending up in the small town of Valders, Wisconsin. I didn’t know that the census is the responsibility of Congress I always thought that some person from the local census office collected data and just reported it up the chain of command. I also didn’t know the census was mentioned in the constitution but heck you learn something new every day I suppose.

  14. Sebrin Ahmed

    At this day and age, it is especially important to know and distinguish one’s rights and privileges and carrying the constitution is the best way to make sure of it. I remember about two years ago when a government official came knocking on my family’s door asking very personal questions. Being an alien/ foreign national, at first thought, I assumed he was sent by the USCIS to gather information or “intel” (as I thought of it) from us and was hesitant to provide any. He later informed us of his credentials and briefly explained what it is that he does. Reading your post not only enlightened me on why the census is gathered but the importance of cooperating, the next time an agent contacts me from the bureau.

  15. Madina Tall

    Hi Andrew!
    This was such an interesting piece and I appreciate you sharing it with us. I think the fact that you carry a pocket-sized consitution with you says a lot of great things about you as an individual. One thing that jumped out at me when reading your article was about the Census and how the aim of it was to count how many people there were and to collect other important information about them. This is interesting to me because it seems to be that some of us feel like they’re more a part of society if they are acknowledged by the authority rather than having personal connections and love within their neighborhoods. In other words, the census in a way also contributes to peoples sense of belonging.

  16. Levi Scott

    Hello Andrew,
    Thank you for your work in putting together this article. Prior to reading it I knew very little on the US census. Let alone the process of how it is conducted. An interesting note I took from it was the large expense of conducting such a procedure. I also was not aware that it is a constitutional requirement. This, along with the fact that most of the constitution is open for interpretation, causes me to question the original intention of the purpose of such a survey. Will this process change in the future with the advance in technology, especially in terms of the high price tag? Overall a very informative article, and I am glad that you took the time to write it!

  17. Katrina Lund

    Thank you for such a succinct and clear description of the census and how elaborately it is run. I feel not many people understand how significant the census is to our government running smoothly, and being able to know exactly who and how it should be serving. I wonder what your thoughts on the current administration trying to add a question regarding citizenship to the census might be? Had it gone through it would’ve completely altered the results of such an important inquiry. I thought this article was wonderfully structured and makes many very pertinent points. Thanks again for sharing!

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