Enshrined in the Constitution, the census is among the federal government's most fundamental responsibilities. It is also one the government is perilously close to flunking, unless Congress and the administration act now.
The decennial census is arguably the most important data set the government produces. It determines how many representatives each state sends to Washington, who sends them there, and how much Washington sends back in funding for federal programs. It informs decisions about public and private spending, on everything from roads and schools to hospitals and supermarkets.