This article is worth reading because it does an excellent job of discussing the wide reaching impact of Census data (even if it is Canadian Census data):
The census can look dull or irrelevant to the average citizen, a twice-a-decade event that only policy wonks, academics and journalists really care about.
But like the foundation of a building, census data are largely invisible but crucially important, affecting the lives of any citizen who has a child, drives a car, goes to school, moves here from another country, retires, works — or loses their job — shops, gets sick, wants to live in a safe neighbourhood, needs a helping hand from a charity or wants to know the money they donate will be put to good use.
“It really does touch your life, but not until you need it or you see it do you realize it,” says Doug Norris, director general of social and demographic statistics at Statistics Canada until 2005 and now chief demographer and senior vice-president with Environics Analytics.
Since the Conservatives announced three weeks ago they’re scrapping Canada’s long-form census in 2011 and replacing it with a voluntary survey — a move they say was prompted by privacy complaints — opposition has been mounting steadily. The short-form census remains mandatory. An array of experts and organizations have panned the decision, insisting it will destroy the statistical backbone of municipalities, social programs, community organizations and private businesses that touch nearly every aspect of the lives of ordinary Canadians……
Municipalities use information gleaned from long-form questions on how people get to work and where they work to plan bridges, roads and public transportation projects and budgets, says Derek Cook, research social planner with the City of Calgary.
“We may never again get neighbourhood level statistical data and what the hell are we going to do if we don’t have neighbourhood data? How are we going to plan?” he says. “It’s like taking a carpenter’s hammer away and asking him to go continue to build the house.”
Like Cook, Brent Toderian, director of city planning for Vancouver, said census data so fundamentally underlie everything a city plans for its residents that he struggles to pinpoint a single instance.
“It’s literally the starting point of all of our work, so pick a project,” he says, mentioning school boards, new transit lines and aging neighborhoods as a handful of examples. “The tendrils of this work go all the way through every city in the country.”