Every ten years since 1790, the U.S. Census Bureau makes an effort to count all the people of the United States. This year, most Americans had the option of answering the brief questionnaire online. Overall, 59% of Americans have responded, but Puerto Rico’s rate of response is currently just 8%. This is the lowest response rate in America.
Census takers have been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, but will soon be visiting homes directly in search of answers to the census questions.
In the federal census of 1900, just two years after Puerto Rico came into the possession of the United States, only military personnel were counted. From 1910 on, all residents of Puerto Rico have been counted. You can check census data from 1910 to 1940 for genealogical information or other research.
Why the census matters
The federal government makes decisions on the basis of census information. For example, while every state has two senators, the number of Members of Congress for each state depends on the state’s population, which is determined by the census.
Puerto Rico is not a state and has just one non-voting member of Congress. However, the census is taken just once in a decade. If Puerto Rico becomes a state before 2030, the number of representatives in Congress will be based on the numbers counted by the 2020 census.
Other decisions, including the amount of funding provided in each state and territory for programs like Medicaid, Pell grants, highway funds, and more, rely on census data, too. Puerto Ricos’s funding for some of these programs is capped, but even attempts to gain additional or equitable funding can depend on the population.
What’s more, the census data is used to make decisions about $1.5 trillion dollars worth of funding in more than 300 federal programs, from solid waste grants to housing subsidies.
Census data is also used for research of many kinds. The better the data, the better the research.
Having accurate numbers is important.