Measuring the Size and Scope of Government in Indiana and Across the U.S.

The first data from the Census of Governments are scheduled for release beginning in August 2012.

We in the data business are glad since these data provide the only nationwide, comprehensive tally of the number and types of government units and what they spend our tax money on. These data allow apples-to-apples comparisons of government spending across an array of services, including schools, police, fire, road, highway and other government functions.

Before we can use the data though, the actual census must be taken. The Census of Governments will begin October 2011 with the mailing of the Government Units Survey. That survey collects descriptive information on the basic characteristics of local governments in preparation for the 2012 Census of Governments.

Data from this survey will also be used to update and verify mailing addresses and produce the official count of local government units (see Figure 1). In 2012, the Census Bureau will request data on the employment and finances of state and local governments.

Figure 1: Indiana's Local Government Composition, 2007

Indiana local government composition graph

Note: Marion County is not included in the county count given that it operates under Unigov.
Source: Census of Governments

Is this required? Yes. Under Title 13, Section 161, the Census of Governments has been conducted for years ending in "2" and "7" since 1957. It is used to:

  • Identify the scope and nature of state and local government
  • Provide authoritative benchmark figures of public finance and public employment
  • Classify local government organizations, powers, and activities
  • Measure federal, state, and local fiscal relationships

Following the activity of governments over time tells a compelling story of the fiscal condition of federal, state, and local government. And in the end, it should help policymakers make informed decisions about government service and spending.

Questions? Let the Indiana Data Center folks know by emailing Katie Springer ( or Carol Rogers ( You can also go straight to the Census Bureau ( or visit the Governments web page at

Carol O. Rogers
Deputy Director and Executive Editor, Indiana Business Research Center, Indiana University Kelley School of Business