At the US Bureau of the Census, people count. The Census Bureau is in the business of recording almost everything about the nation's citizens. As a division of the US Department of Commerce, the Census Bureau crunches and publishes statistical information collected every 10 years about the nation's economy, geography, and people, including housing statistics, community profiles, and education data. Known for tomes such as the Statistical Abstract of the United States, much of the agency's data is also available through its online product, American FactFinder, which also provides links to US and world population clocks.
The Census Bureau is headed by a director, who is appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the US Senate. Headquartered outside Washington, DC, the bureau has regional offices located in 12 different cities: Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, and Seattle.
The first census of the United States was taken in 1790, soon after the country had declared its independence from England. That census, directed by then Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, was conducted by US marshals on horseback. Inhabitants of the nascent nation numbered 3.9 million.
Counting heads wasn't enough; the nation's interests grew more complex. In 1810 the census was expanded to obtain information on the manufacturing, quantity, and value of products. In later decades, the census added questions on fisheries, taxation, churches, and crime.
The Census Bureau became a permanent institution by an act of Congress in 1902. Today, in addition to taking a census of the population every ten years, the bureau collects information on economic activity and state and local government every five years. It also conducts more than 100 other surveys every year. Data collected by the bureau is used, among other things, to apportion seats in the US House of Representatives and define legislature and school districts.