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Social characteristics
1900 1910 1920 1930 1940 1950


Public or private school
Vocational training
Place of birth
Place of birth of parents

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Year of naturalization

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See also supplemental questionnaires.
+ Available on supplemental questionnaires at the National Archives and Records Administration.
s Sample question.
'Free White persons only.
?Question only asked of free inhabitants.

Question was whether insane or idiotic.
"In 1960, place of birth was asked on a sample basis generally, but on a 100-percent basis in New York and Puerto Rico. Citizenship was asked

only in New York and Puerto Rico, where it was a 100-percent item. “Question was only whether parents were foreign born. For males 21 years of age or over. Whether person could speak English. In 1900, this was the only question; in 1920 and 1930 this question was in addition to request for mother tongue. BAsked only outside cities. 'On housing portion of questionnaire.


Measuring America

Please note that the microfilmed images of schedules com scope and method to the 1790 census. However, the Conpleted by an enumerator can have abbreviations, titles, gress, statisticians, and other scholars urged that while the comments, and even "doodles," that do not correspond to populace was being enumerated, other information the new any information contained in the instructions given to each government needed also should be collected. The first enumerator. In such cases, the meaning of this entry has inquiries on manufacturing were made in 1810 and, in later been lost with the enumerator. Furthermore, schedules will decades, censuses of agriculture, mining, governments, frequently have entries (within the schedule or its margins) religious bodies (discontinued after 1946), business, housthat seem to have no relation to the question asked. The ing, and transportation were added to the decennial census. meaning of these entries have been lost so many years (Legislation enacted in 1948 and later years specified that since the marks were made. Although these entries may the various economic, agriculture, and government cenindeed relate to the household, they often are related to the suses would be taken at times that did not conflict with administrative duties conducted during receipt and tabula- those in which the population and housing censuses tion of the schedules by Census Bureau clerks. For example, occurred.) the letters “JGG” (or any other letters, numbers, or words)

The 1830 census related solely to population. The marshals next to or within an entry may have been the initials of a

and their assistants began using uniform printed schedules; Census Bureau clerk, used to indicate where he/she

before that, they had to use whatever paper was available, stopped for lunch or the end of the workday, or a manager

rule it, write in the headings, and bind the sheets together. making an administrative note, such as a shift change. Thus, abbreviations/marks found on the microfilms that are the census act for the 1840 census authorized the estabnot explicitly identified within the instructions to the enu lishment of a centralized census office during each enumerators are impossible to definitively understand.

meration and provided for the collection of statistics pertaining to "the pursuits, industry, education, and resources

of the country." The new population inquiries included A HISTORY OF THE DECENNIAL CENSUSES:

school attendance, illiteracy, and type of occupation. 1790-2000

From 1790 through the 1840 census, the household, not Censuses of 1790 to 1840

the individual, was the unit of enumeration in the popula

tion census, and only the names of the household heads A nationwide population census on a regular basis dates appeared on the schedules. There was no tabulation from the establishment of the United States. Article 1, Sec beyond the simple addition of the entries the marshals had tion 2, of the United States Constitution required that submitted, and there was no attempt to publish details uni

formly by cities or towns, or to summarize returns for each "Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned

state, other than by county, unless the marshals had done among the several states which may be included within this union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the

Censuses of 1850 to 1890 whole number of free persons, including those bound

The act governing the Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth Decennial to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians

Censuses (1850-1870) made several changes in census pronot taxed, three-fifths of all other persons. The actual

cedures: Each marshal was responsible for subdividing his Enumeration shall be made within three years after

district into “known civil divisions," such as counties, townthe first Meeting of the Congress of the United States,

ships, or wards, and for checking to ensure that his assisand within every subsequent term of ten years, in

tants' returns were completed properly. The number of such manner as they shall by law direct. 3".

population inquiries grew; every free person's name was to Starting with the 1800 census, the Secretary of State

be listed, as were the items relating to each individual enudirected the enumeration and, from 1800 to 1840, the mar

merated. Beginning in 1850, marshals collected additional shals reported the results to him. From 1850 through 1900,

"social statistics” (information about taxes, schools, crime, the Interior Department, established in 1849, had jurisdic

wages, value of estate, etc.) and data on mortality. [Decention.

nial mortality schedules for some states and territories exist

for 1850-1880 and for a few places in 1885; see Table 2.) 3in subsequent decades, the practice of “service for a term of

Noteworthy features of the 1870 census included the introyears" died out. "Indians not taxes” were those not living in settled duction of a rudimentary tally device to help the clerks in areas and paying taxes; by the 1940s, all American Indians were

their work and the publications of maps, charts, and diaconsidered to be taxed. The 13th Amendment abolished slavery in 1865, and the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in

grams to illustrate the most significant census results. 1868, officially ended Article I's "three-fifths rule." Thus, the origi

The general scope of the 1880 census was expanded only nal census requirements were modified. Direct taxation based on the census never became practical.

slightly over that of 1870, but much greater detail was


Measuring America


beyond the basic counts, which were released promptly, publication of these data was not completed until nearly 1890.

etc., it can not, therefore, any longer have a place in the census reports.6

Commenting on this statement, historian Frederick Jackson Turner wrote in 1893 that, "up to our own day, American history has been in a large degree the history of the colonization of the Great West. The existence of an area of free land, its continuous recession, and the advance of American settlement westward, explain American development."7 The censuses that followed 1890 reflected the filling in, rather than the expansion of, the colonized areas; symbolizing a turning point in America's development as a Nation.

Censuses of 1900 to 2000

Although the censuses in the early 1900s did not witness the expansion of inquiries as had been witnessed in the late nineteenth century, geographic coverage of the census reflected the Nation's growing status as a political and military power. As a result of the country's expanding global influence, the following areas saw their first censuses administered by the United States in the early 1900s:

The census act of 1880 replaced the marshals and their assistants with specially appointed agents (experts assigned to collect technical data, such as on manufacturing processes), supervisors, and enumerators, every one of whom was forbidden to disclose census information. Maintaining the confidentiality of the data was a result of what some people regarded as the census' invasion of privacy, especially since prior to the 1880 census, there was no law limiting the extent to which the public could use or see the information on any schedule. (Subsequent demographic and economic censuses, as well as most surveys, have been carried out according to statutes that make compliance mandatory, with penalties for refusal; and responses confidential, with penalties for disclosure. Congress codified these laws in 1954 as Title 13, U.S. Code.) For the first time, enumerators were given detailed maps to follow, so they could account for every street or road and not stray beyond their assigned boundaries. (The National Archives' Cartographic and Architectural Branch maintains this map collection.4) Again, in 1890, there was an extension of the decennial census's scope, and some subjects were covered in even greater detail than in 1880. Data were collected in supplemental surveys on farm and home mortgages and private corporations' and individuals' indebtedness. The 1890 census also used, for the first time in history, a separate schedule for each family. Herman Hollerith, who had been a special agent for the 1880 census, developed punch cards and electric tabulating machines to process the 1890 census returns, considerably reducing the time needed to complete the clerical work. (Hollerith's venture became part of what is now the IBM Corporation.) Both the cards and the machines were improved progressively over the next 50 years.5 The 1890 census was historic in another way. In the first volume of the results, the Superintendent of the Census wrote

• Following its annexation in 1898, Hawaii (where the local

government took a census every 6 years from 1866 though 1896) was included in the 1900 census, which also had the first count of the U.S. population abroad (Armed Forces and Federal civilian employees, and their households).

The War Department carried out an enumeration in Puerto Rico in 1899 following that island's acquisition from Spain in 1898 (there were periodic censuses from 1765 to 1887 under Spanish rule), and there have been decennial censuses conducted in Puerto Rico from 1910 to the present.

• The U.S. Census Bureau compiled and published one cen

sus of the Philippine Islands following their accession by the United States in 1898; this census was taken under the direction of the Philippine Commission in 1903. (Under Spanish rule, there had been censuses in 1818 and 1876. The Philippine legislature directed in 1918, and the Commonwealth's statistical office began periodic enumerations in 1939. The Philippines became an independent republic in 1946).

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times. The Canal Zone was included in the U.S. censuses from 1920 to 1970. (Sovereignty over the Zone was transferred to the Republic of Panama in 1979.) Following the United States' occupation of Guam in 1899, the local governor conducted a census there in 1901. The island has been included in U.S. censuses from 1920 onward.

The governors of American Samoa conducted censuses at various times after the United States acquired the islands in 1900, and the population was enumerated in U.S. censuses from 1920 onward. Prior to the acquisition of the Danish Virgin Islands by the United States in 1917, the Danish government took periodic censuses between 1835 and 1911. The U.S. census was conducted in 1917 and the islands appeared in the 1930 and subsequent U.S. censuses. A census of Cuba was conducted under a provisional U.S. administration in 1907. There were earlier censuses under Spanish rule (which ended in 1898). The U.S. War Department conducted an enumeration in 1899, and subsequent censuses were overseen by the Republic (established in 1901) beginning in 1919. There had been quinquennial Japanese censuses from 1920 to 1940 for the islands that became the U.S. Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. The U.S. Navy conducted a census in 1950, and the U.S. High Commissioner carried out a census in 1958, the results of which appeared in the 1960 U.S. census reports. The U.S. Census Bureau conducted the 1970 and 1980 censuses8; in 1980, 1990, and 2000, there was a separate census of the Northern Mariana Islands, which had been part of the Trust Terri

tory. A number of the censuses noted above collected data on griculture, housing, and economic subjects and included numerations on isolated islands, such as Truk and Yap, nainly in the Pacific.

and Labor in 1903, and remained within the Department of Commerce when the Department of Labor was split off in 1913. The 1910 census was the first for which prospective census employees took open competitive examinations throughout the country (since 1880, appointees had been given noncompetitve tests). The way in which results were published also was changed, with those statistics that were ready first-especially those in greatest demand (such as the total population of individual cities and states, and of the United States as a whole)-issued first as press releases, then in greater detail as bulletins and abstracts, the latter appearing 6 months to 1 year before the final reports were issued. In 1920 and 1930, there were minor changes in scope. A census of unemployment accompanied the 1930 census -data were collected for each person reported to have a gainful occupation, but who was not at work on the day preceding the enumerator's visit. Sampling. In many ways, 1940 saw the first modern census. One of its major innovations was the use of statistical techniques, such as probability sampling, that had only been experimented with previously, such as in 1920s crop sampling, a Civil Works Administration trial census and surveys of retail stores conducted in the 1930s, and an official sample survey of unemployment in 1940 that covered about 20,000 households. Sampling in the 1940 census allowed the addition of several questions for just 5 percent of the persons enumerated, without unduly increasing the overall burden on respondents and on data processing. Sampling also made it possible to publish preliminary returns 8 months ahead of the complete tabulations. The Census Bureau was able to increase the number of detailed tables published and review of the quality of the data processing was more efficient. Most population and housing inquiries included in the 1940 census were repeated in later years, and a few were added, including

• Place of work and means of transportation to work


• Occupation 5 years before the census (1970 and 1980


tateside Developments rom the 1840 through the 1900 censuses, a temporary ensus office had been established before each decennial numeration and disbanded as soon as the results were ompiled and published. Congress established a permanent lureau of the Census in 1902, in the Department of the nterior, so there would be an ongoing organization capable of carrying out censuses throughout the decades instead of oncentrating all the work in those years ending in "0." The Census Bureau moved to the new Department of Commerce

· Housing costs (1980).

• Inquiries relating to childcare by grandparents (2000). in 1940 and 1950, the sample population questions were asked only for those persons whose names fell on the schedules' sample lines. Sampling was extended to the housing schedule in 1950, with a few questions asked on a cyclic basis: One pair of questions for household 1, another pair for household 2, etc., until household 6, when the cycle was started again with the first pair of questions. In the 1960 census, the sampling pattern was changed for population and housing questions alike: If a housing unit

Sin 1986, compacts of free association were implemented etween the Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshall slands, and the United States. Under the terms of Title 13, U.S. ode, the United States was no longer authorized to take the lecennial censuses in those areas that were formerly part of the rust Territory.

Measuring America


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