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A Brief History of the United States Census, 1790 to 2010. Prepared by Reynolds Farley for :. Gerald R. Ford School National Poverty Center Monday, June 22, 2009. Why Does the United States Have the Longest History of Continuous Census Enumeration?

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

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A brief history of the united states census 1790 to 2010 l.jpg

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

Prepared by Reynolds Farley for :

Gerald R. Ford School

National Poverty Center

Monday, June 22, 2009


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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


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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.


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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 Years

  • 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.


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Major National Issues and Controversies in Several Eras of US History:

Their Implications for How This Nation Measures Itself

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. They were 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) population?

    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.


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Major National Issues and Controversies in Several Eras of US History

Their Implications for How This Nation Measures Itself

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 ended.

  • 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.


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  • Urbanization and the shift from agriculture to industry

    Following the Civil War, the nation’s 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.


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Major National Issues and Controversies in Several Eras of US History:

Their Implications For How This Nation Measures Itself

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 government’s monetary and fiscal policies can prevent 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.


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The Census of 1940―The First Modern Census

  • For the first time, this census asked questions about:

    Occupation

    Industry

    Class of worker

    Employment status in some detail

    Earnings

    Educational attainment, rather than literacy

    Geographic migration within the United States

  • For the first time, the census used a sampling to cut costs and reduce respondent burden, while still obtaining reliable information for small areas.


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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 sampling.

  • 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 1940.

  • 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.


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  • 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 undercount.

  • 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.


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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.

  • 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 undercount.


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  • 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 undercount

  • Estimates of Net Census Undercount in Recent Censuses


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  • In February, 1996; President’s Clinton’s Secretary of Commerce, Ron Brown, announced the administration’s plans for Census 2000. To save money and improve quality, it called for sampling both to complete the count and adjust for undercount.

  • 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 O’Connor was the swing vote. She objected to sampling for congressional apportionment.


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