US Census Fast Facts

Posted at 4:25 PM, Sep 21, 2018
and last updated 2019-02-21 15:17:33-05

Here’s some background information about the census, a count of US residents that takes place every 10 years. The Census Bureau is part of the Department of Commerce.

Most recent population information.

2010 Census – US population – 308,745,538, a 9.7% increase from 2000

2000 Census – US population – 281,421,906

Other Facts:
The census is mandated by the US Constitution. “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 10 years, in such manner as they shall by Law direct.” – Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution of the United States.

Census results determine how federal funds are distributed to localities.

The data helps determine the number of seats states have in the US House of Representatives.

1790 – The first census is conducted by US marshals and their assistants at a cost of $44,000. The population is estimated to be 3.9 million. Residents are categorized as free white males 16 years or older, free white males under 16, free white females, all other free persons and slaves.

1820 – More detailed employment information is gathered, as respondents are asked to categorize their jobs by industry: agriculture, commerce or manufacturing. A question about the citizenship (number of foreigners within the household who are not naturalized) appears for the first time.

1840 – Questions are added about education, vocation and industry.

1850 – Marshals begin collecting “social statistics,” including information on taxes, schools, crime and wages.

1870 – The Census Bureau phases out its slave questionnaire five years after the ratification of the 13th Amendment which ended slavery. A rudimentary tallying machine is used to expedite the count.

1890 – An electric tabulation system is used for the first time.

January 1931 – In response to the Great Depression, Congress mandates a special unemployment census to assess the severity of the crisis.

1950 – Americans abroad are counted for the first time.

1960 – The census questionnaire is mailed out en masse for the first time. Computers process nearly all the data.

1970 – The population of Hispanic individuals, of any race, is comprehensively counted for the first time.

1980 – The census begins obtaining information on race via self-identification. Following the 1980 count, 52 lawsuits are filed against the Census Bureau for various reasons, including the undercounting of minorities, the inclusion of undocumented immigrants and operational issues at some Census Bureau offices. Demographic analysis later shows that the census undercounted the population by 1.2% and undercounted African-Americans at a rate 3.7% higher than any other minority group.

1990 – The Census Bureau introduces a program called S-Night (streets/shelters), a one-night sweep to count the homeless popular in major cities, building on the previous efforts to count itinerant individuals. Many newspapers refer to the S-night as the “homeless census.”

2000 – Census data is released principally on the internet for the first time.

2005 – The Census Bureau begins collecting data for the American Community Survey, an annual survey that lists demographic, economic and housing characteristics for localities with populations of 20,000 or more.

December 14, 2010 – The first multiyear estimates based on the American Community Survey data are released.

March 26, 2018 – The Commerce Department announces that the question of citizenship will be reintroduced to the census. The change was requested by the Justice Department, reportedly in the interest of enforcing the Voting Rights Act. The citizenship question was included on most census counts between 1820 and 1950, according to the Commerce Department. Civil rights groups oppose the change because undocumented individuals may opt not to participate if their citizenship is questioned, leaving a significant portion of the population uncounted.

March 27, 2018 – California files a lawsuit challenging the addition of the citizenship question in federal court.

March 28, 2018 – The NAACP files a lawsuit maintaining that the Census Bureau is underfunded for the 2020 census, which it contends will result in an undercount.

April 3, 2018 – New York’s attorney general, along with a coalition of 18 attorneys general, six cities and the bipartisan US Conference of Mayors, files a lawsuit challenging the addition of the citizenship question to the 2020 census.

October 22, 2018 – The Supreme Court blocks a deposition of Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, in the federal court case challenging the citizenship question.

January 15, 2019 – A federal judge in New York strikes down the proposal to reintroduce a citizenship question into the 2020 census.

February 1, 2019 – The Census Bureau announces that it will move forward with plans to test a citizenship question in a nationwide survey midyear, while federal courts weigh the legality of the question.

February 15. 2019 – The Supreme Court announces that it will take up a case involving the citizenship question on the 2020 Census.