Census of Population and Housing

Introduction

The Census of Population and Housing, or Decennial Census actually is two censuses taken concurrently every ten years.  The Census of Population, begun in 1790, counts the number of people and some personal, social, and economic characteristics.   It is the oldest statistical product of the Federal government and was the first of the modern periodic censuses, focusing on enumeration to determine the apportionment of political power, rather than for tax purposes and/or raising militia.  Originally the U.S. Decennial was set up to apportion the House of Representative seats in Congress, and later additional to apportion federal funding. [Congressional Record 110th Congress (2007-2008)]  The Census of Housing, taken since 1940, counts the number of residential dwellings and selected physical and financial characteristics.  The Decennial Census is mandated by the U.S. Constitution, and by law (Title 13, U.S. Code), the Census Bureau cannot share the answers that respondents provide with anyone or any other government agency. [2010 Census: Answers …]

Representatives … 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 ... 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.... [U.S. Constitution - Article 1 Section 2]

The first U.S. Census (1790) placed the population at 3.9 million, which included slaves but not Native Americans.  The 2010 census counted over 308 million people.  The 1790 census asked six questions:  name of head of family and number of persons in household and the number of persons in each household of the following descriptions: Free White males 16 years and upward, free White males under 16 years, free White females, all other free persons (by sex and color) and slaves.  The 2010 census asked ten questions of everyone covering whether the dwelling was rented or owned, telephone number, how many people lived in the dwelling, information on age, sex, ethnicity, and relation to the head of household.  [Questions Planned for the 2010 Census...]

 

Besides providing the basis for congressional redistricting, Census data are used in many other ways.  Since 1975, the Census Bureau has had responsibility to produce small-area population data needed to redraw state legislative and congressional districts. Other important uses of Census data include the distribution of funds for government programs such as Medicaid; planning the right locations for schools, roads, and other public facilities; helping real estate agents and potential residents learn about a neighborhood; and identifying trends over time that can help predict future needs. Most Census data are available for many levels of geography, including states, counties, cities and towns, ZIP codes, census tracts and blocks, and much more.  [Decennial Census – Historic Snapshot of the Nation]

Preliminary Data is released within a year of the Census being conducted.  National and state level summary data are released first.  Detailed data and data for smaller geographic areas are released over time.  When searching for census data keep the following in mind:

Determine the desired Census year(s).
Determine the variables needed. 
Determine the Census geography required. 
Then select the appropriate resource.

 

Not all data is available for all geographic levels.  In general, the larger the geographic area, the more data is available.   

U.S. Law requires that Census schedules and questionnaires (individual responses) be kept confidential for 72 years.  After 72 years, the National Archives releases microfilm copies of the schedules and questionnaires.   As of the 2000 Census, 1790 through 1940 schedules are available. For more information, see the National Archives and Records Administration - Resources for Genealogists

The OSU Libraries do not collect Census schedules. They are available at the following Ohio libraries. (Holdings and hours vary. Contact the libraries for more information.)

Indexes to the schedules are available.  Some of which are listed below.

  • Catalog of NARA Microfilm 
  • 1870-1890 Federal Population Censuses:  Catalog of National Archive Microfilm.  (OSU Book Depository HA 37 .U548 1997) 
  • 1900 Federal Population Census:  a Catalog of Microfilm Copies of the Schedules.  (OSU Book Depository HA 37 .U552 N33) 
  • 1910 Federal Population Censusa Catalog of Microfilm Copies of the Schedules.  (OSU Book Depository HA 37 .U5475 1982) 
  • 1920 Federal Population Censusa Catalog of National Archives Microfilm.  (OSU Book Depository HA 37 .U548 1991)

 

Helpful databases for locating census information

GPO Monthly Catalog (OhioLINK membership required for access)
Locate census materials distributed to depository libraries since 1976.

ProQuest Congressional (OSU only)
Select Congressional Indexes, 1789-1972. Many 19th Century census publications were included in the U.S. Serial Set. This source indexes the Serial Set and other Congressional publications.

ProQuest Statistical Insight (OhioLINK membership required for access) 
Indexes U.S., State, and international statistical sources. Includes links to selected online resources. (Paper: ASI -American Statistics Index, SRI - Statistical Reference Index, and IIS-Index to International Statistics available are available.  Check catalog for holdings.)

 

Useful indices and links to census material

Bureau of the Census Catalog of Publications, 1790-1972.  Washington, DC:  U.S. Department of Commerce, Social and Economic Statistics Administration, Bureau of the Census, 1974.   
Electronic .  Part of the HathiTrust Project. Based on the annual issues of the Catalog, 1946-1972. Includes Catalog of United States census publications, 1790-1945 prepared by the Census Library Project, Library of Congress.

Census.  USA Today.
Latest decennial census information by state, etc.

Current Population Reports.  Department of Commerce. Bureau of the Census.
Series and subject indexes to the Current Population Reports. Includes links to online versions of reports when available.

Data Tools and Apps.  U.S. Department of Commerce.  Bureau of the Census.
Links to census related databases, etc.

Dubester, Henry J.  Catalog of United States Census Publications 1790-1945.  Washington: GPO 1950.  [Z 7554 U5 U62]
Standard reference for historic census publications. Call numbers for 1950 OSU holdings penciled in margins.

Historical Census Browser.  University of Virginia.  University of Virginia Library.
Provides search engine and links to historical census information.

Lavin, Michael R., Jane Weintrop, and Cynthia Cornelius. Subject Index to the 1990 Census of Population and Housing.  New York: Epoch Books, 1997.  [HA 201 1990 F3 1997]
Index to tables in print and CD-ROM Census products. Also provides definitions of Census terminology.

Schulze, Suzanne. Population Information in Nineteenth Century Census Volumes. Phoenix: Oryx Press, 1983. [Z 7164 D3 S44 1983]
Census questions, geographic areas, and citations to and detailed contents of census publications for each of the first eleven (1790-1890) censuses.

Schulze, Suzanne.  Population Information in Twentieth Century Census Volumes: 1900-1940. Phoenix: Oryx Press, 1985.   [Z 7164 D3 S45 1985]

Schulze, Suzanne.  Population Information in Twentieth Century Census Volumes: 1950-1980. Phoenix: Oryx Press, 1988.   [Z 7164 D3 S46]
Census questions, geographic areas, and citations to and detailed contents of census publications from the 12th to 20th(1900-1980) censuses. See Lavin (above) for 21st (1990) census information.

Selected Historical Decennial Census Population and Housing Counts.  U.S. Department of Commerce.  Bureau of the Census.
Links to census products by decades.

Subjects A- Z.  U. S. Department of Commerce. Bureau of the Census.
An alphabetical listing of subjects with links to various censuses.

Most census materials held by the OSU Libraries are shelved by LC rather than SuDoc number.  For further information the census. Check the following:

Anderson, Margo J., editor.  Encyclopedia of the U.S. Census.  Washington, DC:  CQ Press, 2000.  [HA 37 U55 C66 2000]
Provides an overview of Census concepts and issues from 1790 to the present. Includes thematic maps, tables, and charts.

Barrett, Richard E. Using the 1990 Census for Research. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications 1994. [HA 201 1990 B37 1994 ]
Provides an overview of the 1990 Census and issues and problems in using Census data.

Bohme, Frederick G.  200 years of U.S. Census Taking:  Population and Housing Questions, 1790-1990.  Washington, DC:  U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, 1989.   [C 3.2:T 93]
An overview of the history of the U.S. Census of Population and Housing. Includes information on population schedules.
(Later edition - Measuring America : The Decennial Censuses From 1790 to 2000)

Census '90 Basics. United States Department of Commerce. Bureau of the Census.  
Overview of the 1990 census. Explanations of census geography are especially useful.

Factfinder for the Nation. Series. United States Department of Commerce. Bureau of the Census.  (Will need to scroll down to title)
Series of topical brochures. 1. Statistics on race and ethnicity. 2. Availability of census records about individuals. 3. Agricultural statistics. 4. History and organization. 5. Reference Sources. 6. Housing statistics. 7. Population statistics. 8. Census geography: concepts and products. 9. Construction statistics. 10. Retail trade statistics. 11. Wholesale trade statistics. 12. Statistics on service industries. 13. Transportation, communications, and utilities statistics. 14. Foreign trade statistics. 15. Statistics on manufactures. 16. Statistics on mineral industries. 17. Statistics on governments. 18. Census Bureau programs and products. 19. Enterprise statistics. 20. Energy and related statistics. 21. International programs. 22. Data for communities.

Kaplan, Charles P. and Thomas L. Van Valey. Census '80: Continuing the Factfinder Tradition. Washington: U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census,  1980. [HA 201 1980 K36]
Discusses the U.S. Census from its origins (1790) through 1980. Appendix A "Population and Housing Items on General Schedules 1790-1970" is especially useful.

Lavin, Michael R.  Understanding the Census.  New York:  Epoch Books, 1996.  [HA 201 1990 L37 1996]
Detailed explanations of census terms, products, and uses.

Measuring America: The Decennial Censuses From 1790 to 2000.  Washington, DC:  U.S. Department of Commerce. Bureau of the Census, 2002. [HA37.U62 M43 2002]
An overview of the history of the U.S. Census of Population and Housing. Includes information on population schedules.
(Previous edition - 200 Years of U.S. Census Taking: Population and Housing Questions, 1790-1990)

Research & Technology Guides - The Grace York Archive of Census Aids.  University of Michigan.  
Archive of guides developed by Grace York of the University of Michigan for census information from 1790-2000.

1990 Census of Population and Housing Guide.  Washington, DC:  United States Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, 1993.   [HA 201 1990 A567, Part B only]
Covers census history, glossary, documentation, methodology, planning, etc.

1990 Census of Population and Housing Guide Part A -Text.  U.S. Department of Commerce. Bureau of the Census.  
Covers census history, glossary, documentation, methodology, planning, etc.

1990 Census of Population and Housing Guide Part B - Glossary.  U.S. Department of Commerce. Bureau of the Census. 
Covers census history, glossary, documentation, methodology, planning, etc.

York, Grace. University of Michigan Documents Center: Census Toolkit
An overview of the 2000 Census. Includes discussion of racial concept, census geography, and specific data products.

York, Grace. University of Michigan Documents Center: Guide to the 1990 Census.  
Census questionnaire facsimile, list of census products, census terminology, links to other online sources.


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Citations

Mississippi State University. University Libraries.  Research Guides - United States Decennial Censuses General Research Guide.

U. S. Constitution Online.  U.S. Constitution - Article 1 Section 2.

U. S. Department of Commerce. Census Bureau.  Decennial Census - Historic Snapshot of the Nation.

U. S. Department of Commerce. Census Bureau.   Questions Planned for the 2010 Census and American Community Survey.  March 2008.

U. S. House of Representatives.  Democratic Causus.  2010 Census:  Answers to the Top 10 Most Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)