A new report by the Brookings Institution, released on March 9, studies the link between decennial census data and the distribution of federal funds throughout the nation, and finds that states and localities have much to gain from encouraging Census participation.
The report, Counting for Dollars: The Role of the Decennial Census in the Geographical Distribution of Federal Funds finds that in FY08, 215 federal assistance programs used the decennial census-related statistics to guide about 90% of their geographical assistance funds. In FY08 alone, this means that at least $403 billion was distributed to states based solely on census-related statistics.
The study used the Consolidated Federal Funds Report (CFFR) and the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) to analyze the way that the decennial census guides federal domestic assistance organizations when allocating funds nationally. The authors identified 215 programs that use decennial census data either directly (from the decennial itself) or indirectly (from datasets based on the decennial, such as the American Community Survey) in order to distribute funds geographically in at least one part of the program.
In addition to analyzing the amount of funds distributed based on census-related data, the study looked at which programs and which federal agencies depended on the census data most heavily for funding allocations. The findings showed that 81.4% of census-guided federal funding, or $363.8 billion, was distributed through 10 of the largest federal assistance programs. Of this amount, $329.5 billion was distributed to state governments through formula grants assistance programs, mainly to aid low income households or support transportation infrastructure. The largest of these programs is Medicaid, which distributed $261.1 billion and bases its funding on census data.
Additionally, the study found that of the funds distributed through census-guided data, 97.4% of them went through five federal departments, with the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Transportation, and HUD distributing the most.
The study concludes that given the positive impact that census participation has on federal funding flows to states, it is crucial that states encourage their citizens to respond. Because much of the census-based funding occurs in programs aimed to help low income populations and children, states should also focus on raising the response rate among these hard-to-count populations.
The full report is available at http://www.brookings.edu/ reports/2010/0309_census_dollars.aspx