The decennial Census "typically requires a massive ramp-up in spending in the three years preceding it, involving extensive testing, hiring, and publicity," according to the Washington Post, but "Congress has yet to approve a funding increase requested for the 2017 fiscal year, which began in October, and experts say the White House’s proposed budget for 2018 falls far below what is needed."

Data from the decennial Census and the American Community Survey (ACS) are essential benchmarks for producing any statistically representative studies in the United States, which is why full funding of the Census Bureau budget is a key policy priority for the marketing research and analytics industry.

traditional ramp up in federal budget for the decennial census (Washington Post graph)

The Insights Association recently talked with the Washington Post about the Census Bureau's funding concerns and the potential impact of a less accurate count on businesses:

For example, a company deciding whether to build anything from a giant shopping mall to a small shop needs to know how many prospective customers and employees live in the vicinity, information they have typically gotten from Census data. A less accurate count would compromise this, especially in less populated areas, said Howard Fienberg, director of government affairs at Insights Association, which represents the marketing research and analytics industry.

“It’s very easy to open a new business in New York City, but putting it in some small town in West Virginia is much more difficult,” Fienberg said. “You have to have really rock solid data to be able to make the case,” he said. “When we have uncertainty, business goes nowhere.”

Further, as the newspaper noted, "Funding for the Census Bureau does not all go to the decennial count. Among other things, the bureau puts out the annual American Communities Survey, a more detailed questionnaire sent to a smaller sample of respondents." Meanwhile, "strain is already showing" for the 2020 Census thanks to "uncertainty about funding." The Census Bureau cancelled rural and native reservation tests planned for 2017 because of funding shortfalls and the Government Accountability Office has "placed the Census on its High Risk list. Part of the problem, critics say, is that Congress is not good at long term planning."