The U.S. Census Bureau has been taking a census of the whole population every ten years since 1790. Its original purpose was to determine congressional representation and to apportion taxes to pay for the expensive Revolutionary War.
The census helps determine the annual distribution of over 675 billion federal dollars.
Visit 2020census.gov find updates and news about the latest census.
The questions asked vary each decade (table of all questions asked, 1790-2000), reflecting the concerns of the time. The core data include:
Curious about the census form? The Census Bureau's history site has images of census forms from 1790 - 2010.