February 11, 2020 | Number of The Day
New Jersey’s share of annual census-driven federal funding

What’s the value of an accurate census count? Apart from the obvious — that properly functioning societies should know the details of their makeup and that the size of congressional delegations are determined by census results — there’s a dollars-and-cents answer to that question. That’s partly why state governments — including New Jersey’s — have launched outreach and advertising campaigns to get an accurate count of residents for the 2020 Census.

A new study clarifies exactly what’s at stake in financial terms: According to George Washington University’s “Counting for Dollars 2020″ project, in fiscal year 2017 more than $1.5 trillion dollars in census-guided federal funding went to states and localities from 316 programs. Indeed, the study underlines the extent to which census-guided funding drives a substantial proportion of the U.S. economy — 9% of personal income in 2017.

“The accuracy of each state’s census population determines if it gets its fair share of federal funds. At the same time, census accuracy is particularly important for states with high percentages of residents who are poor or live in rural areas,” said Professor Andrew Reamer, who led the study. He added, “…each state should keep in mind that federal funds they lose due to undercounting don’t go back to the U.S. Treasury — they get redistributed, essentially as a gift, to all the other states. For most programs, Congress determines the size of the pie and the census numbers determine the size of each state’s slice.“

Eleven states received more than $40 billion each from census-guided federal funding in FY2017. No surprise, California was in the van with $171.9B, followed by New York ($121.7B), Texas ($101.6B), Florida ($86.8B), Pennsylvania ($63.0B), Ohio ($56.5B), Illinois ($55.9B) and Michigan ($48.7B). Next came New Jersey, ($45.8B), then North Carolina ($43.8B) and Georgia ($40.5B).

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