Think of the census as a sweepstakes worth up to $500 billion per year.
In advance of the 2010 Census, a new report by the Brookings Institution points to just how much federal aid is resting on the results. The report finds that federal dollars are channeled into states not so much on the basis of politics as on information about the size of each state's rural and poor populations -- data that's collected in the country's decennial census.
In an analysis of fiscal year 2008 funds, the study found that 31 percent of federal assistance -- $446.7 billion -- was distributed using census population and income data as a guide. Medicaid funding, for example, is allocated to states based on the size of their poor populations (and their Medicaid income limits.)
Since the government conducts the census just once every decade, the report's author, Andrew Reamer, argues, it's imperative that it's as rigorous and precise as possible:
"In general, politics does not enter in. Congress sets the formulas," says Andrew Reamer, a Brookings fellow who did the analysis. "Most states get their money based on numbers, which is why an accurate census is so important."
So which state will collect on this jackpot? Brookings analyzed federal spending in fiscal year 2008 to assess which states got the most fed dollars per capita. Check out the top ten states (with one exception; the top recipient is a city, not a state):