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"A census is a complete count of a population, generally a nation, conducted by government, as of a fixed date."
- International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences (2nd Edition), 2015, Page 302
The United States Constitution (Article 1, Section 2) mandates a decennial census for the purpose of Congressional apportionment. The first Census was conducted in 1790 and counted only heads of household. Over time the Census has expanded to count every person in the U.S. including information on their age, race, and ethnicity as well as a variety of social and economic characteristics. While there are undoubtedly portions of the population that go uncounted, it is the closest we have to complete demographic and economic data on the U.S. population.
In addition to the data collected by the Decennial Census, the American Community Survey (since 2005) collects additional data on such topics as ancestry, citizenship, educational attainment, income, language proficiency, migration, disability, employment, and housing characteristics. This data is also available through the main Census portal (data.census.gov) and in Census publications.