How the U.S. census affects American cities

The Brookings Institution's Andrew Reamer discusses why the U.S. census had only 10 questions and how it affects the distribution of funds for highways and assistance programs.

The 2010 U.S. census is highly anticipated because it determines how much representation each state has in Congress and how federal government funds will be distributed.

Next American City talks with the Brookings Institution's Andrew Reamer, a fellow in the Metropolitan Policy Program, about why the census only had 10 questions and what it means moving forward.

Until 2000, one of every six households received a "long form" census that asked more detailed information, including income. But Reamer says the American Community Survey demonstrated that such detailed information was necessary every year, not just every 10.

Here's Reamer:

It affects close to half a trillion dollars a year in federal funding, largely in the form of grants.

And the bulk of those grants largely go to people in need -- primarily for Medicaid, but lots of other programs: Title I educational assistance, grants to states for special ed programs and building affordable housing. And, in addition, there's the state highway money, which is a lot of money.

So you can think of those two buckets: a huge bucket for helping people in need, and then a big but relatively smaller bucket for federal highway funds.

Want to know how the money is dispersed to states and who gets it? Listen to Reamer's explanation in the full podcast.

Image: Chicago skyline. Reto Fetz/Flickr

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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