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The 1980 Census of Population and Housing is the 20th decennial enumeration of the United States. The inquiries stretching over the years since 1790 reflect the changing interests and data needs of the country, its people, government, and economy. Emphasis has moved from detailed personal facts about individuals to concern about data on housing, employment, income, transportation, ethnicity, education, and migration that can be used for planning and funding at all levels of society, from the neighborhood to the Nation.

In 1973, the Census Bureau published Working Paper 39, Population and Housing Inquiries in U.S. Decennial Censuses, 1790-1970. That report graphically summarized the variety of information collected and published in tabular form and reproduced the actual questions so that users of the statistics might see the original phraseology and format.

This report is aimed not only at the data user but also the social researcher, historian, genealogist, or interested member of the public who may wish to know not only how the population and housing inquiries evolved over the years, but also what instructions led to the entries on the basic records they are using. Therefore, only existing records are considered here. These consist of the schedules through 1900 that are open to the public and those from this century, which are confidential, by law, for 72 years and available only to the named individuals, their heirs, or authorized representatives. The schedules or questionnaires that were used for households in the contiguous States and territories frequently were abridged or translated for use in outlying areas or among special groups within the population, such as transients, the Armed Forces, crews of vessels, etc. These forms generally are not considered in this work; the interested reader should refer to the respective census reports for exact wording or consult with the History Staff at the Bureau of the Census. (A number of supplementary schedules and questionaires used to collect information in the past were destroyed after the data were published; for facsimiles or wording of these, the reader is directed to Working Paper 39 or to the specific reports.)

The surveys of residential finance or housing inventory changes, taken in connection with the 1950 and subsequent censuses, likewise, are not covered here; the complete questionnaires are reproduced in separate publications (see bibliography. p. 91) and/or the resultant published reports.

Inasmuch as histories are available for the individual censuses from 1950 on (see bibliography, p. 91), the questionnaires and instructions for those years are not reproduced in the same detail as for earlier enumerations.

There were no specific instructions issued to census takers until 1820; these, and the ones for later censuses, are reproduced as found in the basic history for the period (see bibliography, p. 91, item 1) or the enumerators manuals. The 1910 instructions and concepts formed the bases for the decennial censuses that followed; hence, only significant changes are treated for the subsequent years.

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