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A Brief History of the United States Census, 1790 to 2010


For the first time detailed questions were asked about employment, earnings, ... the census itself included most of the questions asked for a half century, ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: A Brief History of the United States Census, 1790 to 2010

A Brief History of the United States Census, 1790
to 2010
Prepared by Reynolds Farley for
Census Data Boot Camp for Journalists University
of Michigan, Population Studies Center Wednesday,
October 28, 2009
  • Why Does the United States Have the Longest
    History of
  • Continuous Census Enumeration?
  • The framers of the Constitution mandated a
    decennial census to
  • Ensure that population size?not political
    influence or economic wealth?determined how many
    repre-sentatives each state had in the lower
    house of Congress.
  • Ensure that federal taxes would be levied upon
    states in proportion to their population size

  • The Constitution and the Census
  • Representatives and direct Taxes shall be
    apportioned among the several States which may be
    included within this Union, according to their
    respective Numbers, which shall be determined by
    adding to the whole Number of free Persons,
    including those bound to Service for a Term of
    Years, and excluding Indians not taxed,
    three-fifths of all other Persons. The actual
    Enumeration shall be made within three Years
    after the first Meeting of the Congress of the
    United States, and within every subsequent Term
    of Ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law
    direct. The Number of Representatives shall not
    exceed one for every thirty Thousand but each
    State shall have at Least one Representative. . .
    (Article 1, Section 2)
  • Amendment XIV adopted in 1868 allocated
    representatives according to the whole number of
    persons excluding Indians not taxed.
  • No Capitation, or other direct Tax shall be
    laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or
    Enumeration herein before directed to be taken"
  • After the War of 1812, the federal
    government stopped imposing taxes on states on
    the basis of their population size. Amendment
    XVI, adopted in 1913, permitted an income tax.

  • A Conversation about Race
  • Is It New or Continuing?
  • Groups specifically mentioned in the Constitution
  • Free Persons
  • Free Persons bound to Service for a Number of
  • Indians Not Taxed
  • All Other Persons that is, those held in bondage
  • Note
  • While the term race and the phrase
    previous condition of servitude are used in
    several amendments to the Constitution, the only
    subsequent mention of a specific racial group in
    the Constitution is in the 14th amendment adopted
    in 1868. Indians not taxed were excluded from
    the census count to be used in allocating seats
    in the House of Representatives. A 1926 law made
    Indians residing in the United States citizens,
    so the concept of Indians not taxed no longer has
    any relevance.

  • Major National Issues and Controversies in
    Several Eras of US History
  • Their Implications for How This Nation Measures
  • From the Revolutionary to the Civil War
  • Would the United States develop into an
    economically prosperous, strong nation with a
    rapidly growing population, or would the American
    experiment in democracy wither? Recall that in
    the War of 1812, the British sought
    unsuccessfully to reestablish their colonial
    control of the US.
  • Thomas Jefferson strongly urged that the
    census add questions about manufacturing
    activities. Some were added beginning in 1820.
  • Would slavery be tolerated and what rights, if
    any, did African-Americans have in free states or
    free blacks in slave states? What would be the
    status of the large mixed race (black and white)
  • The Census, in 1850, began to identify the
    mulatto population.
  • Was the United States destined to extend from the
    Atlantic to the Pacific? If so, how could
    Indians be removed or confined to undesirable,
    isolated areas?
  • Would the United States primarily be governed and
    populated by Anglo-Saxon Protestants from
    northern Europe or would immigrants greatly
    change the United States?
  • A question about place of birth was added
    to the Census in 1850.

  • Major National Issues and Controversies in
    Several Eras of US History
  • Their Implications for How This Nation Measures
  • From the Civil to the First World War
  • Would the immigration of eastern and southern
    Europeans, and, potentially many Asians,
    fundamentally alter the United States in
    unfavorable ways and ultimately destroy this
    experiment in democracy?
  • From 1880 through 1910, questions were
    added to the census to identify the origins of
    first- and second-generation immigrants, the
    languages they spoke and their literacy. After
    the 1880s many immigrants were southern and
    eastern European Catholics and Jews who were
    portrayed as ignorant unassimilatable and a
    threat to the wages of native born workers. By
    1924, restrictive laws limited immigration from
    Europe. Efforts to end Asian immigration began
    in 1870, and by 1890, legal immigration from Asia
  • Concerns about the control of contagious disease
    after the Civil War the rise of the Public
    Health Movement
  • By the 1870s, those who studied morbidity
    and mortality realized that most deaths resulted
    from contagious diseases and that water and sewer
    systems in urban areas drastically reduced
    mortality. Supplemental schedules were added to
    the census beginning in 1880 to measure some
    conditions of urban life. Questions were also
    added to the census interview to measure
    mortality, and beginning in 1890, fertility.

  • Urbanization and the shift from agriculture to
  • Following the Civil War, the nations
    economic base shifted from farming to industrial
    production, and by 1920, the majority of the
    population lived in urban areas. Congress asked
    the census to gather information about cities and
    about the occupations but not economic status
    of adults.

The Unusual Section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment
of the Constitution Ratified July 28,
1868 Section. 2. Representatives shall be
apportioned among the several States according to
their respective numbers, counting the whole
number of persons in each State, excluding
Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at
any election for the choice of electors for
President and Vice President of the United
States, Representatives in Congress, the
Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or
the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied
to any of the male inhabitants of such State,
being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of
the United States, or in any way abridged, except
for participation in rebellion, or other crime,
the basis of representation therein shall be
reduced in the proportion which the number of
such male citizens shall bear to the whole number
of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such
State. The Fifteenth Amendment to the
Constitution Ratified February 3, 1879 Section.
1. The right of citizens of the United States to
vote shall not be denied or abridged by the
United States or by any State on account of race,
color, or previous condition of servitude.
Section. 2. The Congress shall have power to
enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
  • Major National Issues and Controversies in
    Several Eras of US History
  • Their Implications For How This Nation Measures
  • From the First World War to the
  • Civil Rights Decade The 1960s
  • From the time of President Washington to the
    present, the federal government played a key role
    in the economic development of the nation. With
    industrialization, urbanization and advances in
    both economics and technology, the role of the
    federal government in sustaining economic growth
    became much greater. The Great Depression?from
    1929 through 1940?marked a turning point for
    federal government activities. We now assume that
    the governments monetary and fiscal policies can
    mitigate economic chaos. As a nation, we
    gradually came to recognize the need for a
    comprehensive, modern statistical system that
    would measure economic trends and the human
    capital of residents.

  • The Census of 1940?The First Modern Census
  • For the first time, this census asked questions
  • Occupation
  • Industry
  • Class of worker
  • Employment status in some detail
  • Earnings
  • Educational attainment, rather than
  • Geographic migration within the United
  • For the first time, the census used a sampling to
    cut costs and reduce respondent burden, while
    still obtaining reliable information for small

  • Developments in Census Taking Since World War II
  • 1940 Influenced by the economic chaos of
    the Depression and developments in social science
    methodology, this was the first modern census.
    For the first time detailed questions were asked
    about employment, earnings, occupations,
    industry, class of worker and recent geographic
    migration. This was the first enumeration to use
  • 1950 Last census to depend exclusively upon
    enumerators to gather data.
  • 1960 Enumeration forms were mailed to all
    addresses and the householders were told to fill
    them out. Enumerators picked them up. For the
    first time, this census used a short form
    including just a few basic questions for all
    households and a long form questionnaire asking
    many questions of a 20 sample of households.
  • 1970 This was the first census to rely upon the
    mail-out, mail-back procedure. This census used
    a self-identification procedure for race and, for
    the first time a separate question sought to
    identify the Spanish-origin population. The
    long-form questions asked in this and subsequent
    censuses were similar to those first asked in
  • 1980 The ancestry question replaced the
    birthplace of parents questions that had been
    asked since 1870. The mail-out, mail-back
    procedure was used and there was increased
    concern about net census undercount. A
    Spanish-origin question was asked of all persons
    for the first time.

  • 1990 ? Although the census itself included most
    of the questions asked for a half century, there
    was immense political controversy about possible
    adjustments for net census undercount.
  • 2000 ? There was great controversy how the census
    would be taken and whether sampling procedures
    could be used to adjust for net census
  • 2010 The census will ask all householders just
    six questions age, sex, Spanish-origin, race,
    tenure and place of residence. The annual
    American Community Survey has replaced the long
    form that had been used from 1960 through 2000
    providing much more frequent data about social,
    economic and demographic trends. The annual
    American Community Survey is now the source of
    data previously gathered once a decade on the
    decennial census long form.

  • Census Undercount as a Civil Rights and
    Political Issue
  • Prior to the Civil Rights decade, census results
    were used primarily to determine how many
    Congressional seats went to each state. The 1962
    Baker v. Carr decision ruled that all elected
    legislative bodies must represent geographic
    districts of equal population size.
  • Developments in demography and in sampling in the
    1950s, facilitated the scientific measurement of
    net census undercount
  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting
    Rights Act of 1965 increased the importance of
    census data for determining the implementation of
    civil rights programs, including opportunities
    for minorities to be elected.
  • Civil rights organizations in the late 1960s and
    1970s recognized that net census undercount
    diminished the political representation of
    largely African-American areas.
  • Mayors in the 1970s and 1980-both Republicans and
    Democrats- recognized that net census undercount
    diminished the political representation of large
    cities and their fair share of federal revenue.
  • Because immigrants primarily settle in seven
    states and because of internal migration to the
    South and West, two-thirds of the states grew
    less rapidly than the national average in the
    1980s and 1990s, putting them at risk of losing
    seats in Congress and the Electoral College.
    Members of Congress from these states often
    blamed their loss of representation on net census

  • Census Undercount, Political Controversy and the
  • Newt Gingrich v. William Clinton Litigation
  • Developments in demography and in sampling in
    the 1950s, facilitated the
  • scientific measurement of net census
  • Estimates of Net Census Undercount in Recent

  • In February, 1996 Presidents Clintons
    Secretary of Commerce, Ron Brown, announced the
    administrations plans for Census 2000. To save
    money and improve quality, it called for sampling
    both to complete the count and adjust for
  • The Republicans, in 1994, won control of the
    House of Representation for the first time since
    1946. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich feared
    that the Clinton Administration would contort
    census counts so as to favor the election of
    Democrats. He refused to let Congress allocate
    any funds for a census that used sampling.
  • U. S. Department of Commerce v. U. S. House of
    Representatives the ruling decision for Census
    2000 (Decided January 25, 1999)
  • With the Clinton Administration and the
    Republican Congress stalemated regarding Census
    2000, Speaker of the House Gingrich filed a
    pre-emptive suit against President Clinton
    seeking a Supreme Court decision that would bar
    the use of sampling. If there were no sampling,
    it would be impossible to scientifically adjust
    census data for net undercount. In a contentious
    5 to 4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled against
    sampling. Justices Scalia and Thomas argued that
    that since the framers of the Constitution did
    not mention sampling, they must have intended
    that the census would be an actual. Justice
    Breyer argued that the framers intended for the
    count to be complete using any effective and fair
    method designated by Congress. Justice OConnor
    was the swing vote. She objected to sampling for
    congressional apportionment.
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