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Study: Census data crucial to many Montanans' incomes


Big Sky Connection

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Eric Tegethoff


February 17, 2020
HELENA, Montana -- An accurate census count is most important to rural states, such as Montana, and poorer states, according to a new study.


States receive $1.5 trillion from programs guided by census data each year. In Montana, those programs made up more than 12% of personal income in 2017, according to George Washington University.


That's higher than the national average of 9%.


The study's author, Andrew Reamer, says that means states such as Montana have a lot at stake in the 2020 Census.


"In particular, those states have a lot more riding on the accuracy of the census and bigger economic consequences if there's an undercount," he states.


Montana received $3 billion from 55 federal programs that use census data in 2016.


As in other states, Medicare makes up the biggest chunk of money to the state. In 2017, it was 5% of personal income.


Reamer notes that if communities are undercounted and states get less money as a result, the funds don't go back to the Treasury. They are simply allocated to every other state.


"For most programs, Congress just says, 'Okay, we're appropriating X billion dollars for the coming year,'" he explains. "And the census data are used to divvy up that money -- determine who gets what slice of the pie. No slices go back to the bank."


West Virginia and Mississippi top the list for highest percent of personal income from programs guided by census data. It's higher than 16% in both states.

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