Why You Count

Federal funds, grants and support to states, counties and communities are based on population totals and breakdowns by sex, age, race and other factors. Waco benefits the most when the census counts everyone. When you respond to the census, you help Waco gets its fair share of the more than $675 billion per year in federal funds spent on schools, hospitals, roads, public works and other vital programs. In fact, the founding Fathers thought this data was so important they mandated it as part of the Constitution.

“Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which

may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers…”

- The Constitution of the United States, Article I, Section 2.

Businesses use census data to decide where to build factories, offices and stores, and this creates jobs. Developers use the census to build new homes and revitalize old neighborhoods. Local governments use the census for public safety and emergency preparedness. Residents use the census to support community initiatives involving legislation, quality-of-life and consumer advocacy.

Some additional ways Census data is used include:

  • Distribution of more than $675 billion annually in federal funds to tribal, state and local governments.
  • Redistricting of state legislative districts.
  • Forecasting of future transportation needs for all segments of the population.
  • Determining areas eligible for housing assistance and 

In short, without an accurate count, Texas stands to lose more than $43 billion per year, including funds for Medicaid, SNAP, the National School Lunch Program and Section 8 Housing Vouchers - to name a few.

Where You Count

The Census requires you to fill out your Census at your "usual residence,” which means the place where you live and sleeps most of the time. This place is not necessarily the same as your voting residence or legal residence.

Determining usual residence is straightforward for most people. However, given the wide diversity of living arrangements, the concept of usual residence has a variety of applications: 

College Students

College students, who make up about 25% of Waco's population, are an example of a population that may have a "usual residence" that is not their permanent or legal residence. College students should complete the Census where they live most of the time (i.e., a dorm or an on or off-campus apartment).


Prisoners should be counted at their home or pre-incarceration address. 

Military Overseas 

The U.S. Census Bureau makes a distinction between personnel who are deployed overseas and those who are stationed or assigned overseas. Deployments are typically short in duration, and the deployed personnel will be returning to their usual residence where they are stationed or assigned in the United States after their temporary deployment ends. Therefore, personnel who are temporarily deployed overseas will be counted at their place of residence in the U.S. 

Personnel stationed or assigned overseas generally remain overseas for longer periods of time and often do not return to the previous stateside location from which they left. Therefore, the Census Bureau will count military and civilian employees of the U.S. government who are stationed or assigned outside the United States, and their dependents living with them, in their home state, for apportionment purposes only, using administrative data provided by the Department of Defense and the other federal agencies that employ them. 

Foreign Citizens in the United States

Foreign citizens are considered to be “living” in the United States if, at the time of the census, they are living and sleeping most of the time at a residence in the United States. 

People in Shelters or Experiencing Homelessness

The U.S. Census Bureau will work with Waco-area shelters to gather accurate counts of those living in shelters on Census day. The U.S. Census Bureau will also work with the City of Waco to determine areas where people experiencing homelessness gather frequently so that canvassers can visit those areas. 

For more information and to find your Census tract, visit the U.S. Census Bureau Response Outreach Area Mapper (ROAM). 

How You Count

  The 2020 Census can be completed in one of three places:  

  1. Online
  2. By mail
  3. At your usual residence home with a Census taker

If you receive a survey or a letter in the mail from the Census Bureau, the envelope contains certain information that may help you verify its legitimacy. For example:

  • U.S. Department of Commerce in the return address. This is the Census Bureau’s parent agency.
  • Jeffersonville, Indiana in the return address. Most census- and survey-related material gets mailed from, and returned to, our National Processing Center in Jeffersonville.

You may also receive a reminder letter from one of the U.S. Census Bureau Regional Office or the Census Bureau headquarters in the Washington, D.C. area.