Why does it matter? (Part 2)

Census data is used to distribute $1.5 trillion in federal money to state and local governments. California residents benefit from dozens of federal programs, including the Community Development Block Grant Program, used for affordable housing and to fight poverty and for funding roads, school programs and lunches, children’s health insurance, early childhood education and foster care. 

Not surprisingly, California draws more federal funds tied to census findings than any other state. Andrew Reamer, research professor at George Washington University, estimates that California receives $172 billion in federal money based on population. That’s dominated by $70 billion for Medicare, the federal health insurance program for senior citizens, and $52 billion for Medicaid, the health program for the poor known as Medi-Cal in California. 

The correlation between census and health care for a Medicare or Medicaid patient may not be obvious. But according to Reamer, federal programs sometimes pay hospitals and providers different rates in rural, suburban and urban settings. That’s one of several ways those programs are related to census data.  

Beyond the government, census data is used by businesses to decide where to build factories, offices and stores, potentially creating jobs. Developers use the count to figure out where to build new homes or rehabilitate old neighborhoods.