Although the Census Bureau carries out hundreds of surveys every year, its most well-known duty is still to conduct the decennial census. The US Census Bureau is responsible for distributing, gathering and calculating the significance of a census given every ten years to the residents of the United States. The census is used to determine the number of each state’s congressional representatives and electoral votes, as well as the allocation of federal tax dollars. Census data directly affect how more than $200 billion per year in federal and state funding is allocated to local, state and tribal governments. The data are vital to other planning decisions, such as emergency preparedness and disaster recovery. The accuracy of the data decides the legitimacy of important decisions.
Because society changes significantly every ten years in the United States, the census must be updated to encompass racial, sexual orientation, and financial categories. The census collects a large amount of sensitive information, which it has been criticized for leaking.
Because the Census has been around for almost 220 years, its results have been important in decision-making for the United States government since the nation was founded. 2010 will see the 23rd decennial census taken by the U.S. Census Bureau.
As nominal director, Thomas Jefferson oversaw the first census in 1790. The six questions in 1790 called for the name of the head of the family and the number of persons in each household of the following descriptions: Free White males of 16 years and upward; Free White males under 16 years; Free White females; All other free persons; and Slaves. The first Census was taken of the original 13 States, plus the districts of Kentucky, Maine, and Vermont, and the Southwest Territory (Tennessee). The authorization act for the third census of 1810 stipulated that an assistant marshal must actually visit each household, or the head of each family, within his designated enumeration district and should not rely on hearsay or the like to complete his count. The first census of manufactures also occurred in 1810. The 1830 census
was the first to use standardized questionnaire forms. In 1850 a new rule stipulated that each marshal was to be responsible for subdividing his district into “known civil divisions," such as counties, townships, or wards. Every free person’s name was to be listed, not just the head of the household.
In 1870, due to the heavy burden of tallying and tabulating census data, use was made of a rudimentary tallying machine, invented by the chief clerk of the Census Office, and later superintendent, Charles W. Seaton. The marshals also collected additional "social statistics," including information on taxes, schools, crime, wages, value of the estate, etc. and data on mortality. After the Civil War, the decennial census questionnaires were reordered and redesigned to account for end of the "slave questionnaire." A new question was formed in 1890 which dealt with race, including "Japanese" as a category for the first time, along with "Chinese," "Negro," "mulatto," "quadroon," "octoroon," and "white." Also in 1890, for the first time, enumerators were given detailed maps to follow so they could account for every street or road and not stray beyond their assigned boundaries. The 1890 census was notable as the first in which the electric tabulating system
, invented by former Census Office employee Herman Hollerith
, was used. Hollerith’s machine required information from the census questionnaires to be transferred to a card, which was hole-punched at various places to indicate the characteristics - age, sex, color, marital status, etc. - of a person enumerated. The cards were then run through an electronic tabulating machine, which, using metal pins to complete circuits through the punched holes, counted or cross-tabulated different characteristics. Tabulation of the 1880 census results took almost a decade to complete.
Hawaii, which had been annexed in 1898, was included in the 1900 census for the first time. In 1902, the formerly temporary Census Office was made a permanent organization within the Department of Interior. In 1903, it became the Census Bureau and was moved to the new Department of Commerce and Labor. The 1905 economic census
was the first U.S. census to be conducted by mail. When the United States entered World War I in 1917, the Census Bureau took on an important new role. During the nation’s mobilization for the war, the Census Bureau was able to use its compiled population and economic data to report on populations of draft-age men, along with the different states’ industrial capacities. The Census Bureau's 1937 special census of unemployment, prompted by the Great Depression, was the first survey to use probability sampling techniques
. The Census Bureau used the first non-military computer, UNIVAC I
, to process the 1950 decennial and 1952 economic censuses. In 1960 the decennial census was sent out by mail. In 1960 additional sample questions were asked of 25 percent of the population, by having enumeraters take extra information from every fourth house.
In 1980 the Census Bureau made a special effort to enumerate historically undercounted groups during two programs, “M-Night” (“M” for mission) and “T-Night” (“T” for transient). On M-Night, specially trained enumerators counted people staying in homeless shelters, soup kitchens, bus and rail stations, dormitories, and others. On T-Night, the enumeration focused on hotels and motels with permanent residents. The Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing System (TIGER), developed by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Census Bureau, was introduced for the 1990 Census. This was created in order to geographically code addresses into appropriate census geographic areas, as well as to produce the many different maps required for data collection and tabulation. The 1987 Economic Census was the first to be published on CDROM, and 10 years later, in 1997, all census data became available on the Internet. On January 25, 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled by a 5-4 margin in Clinton v. Glavin that the census bureau cannot use statistical sampling in the 2000 census to determine the population for Congressional apportionment purposes.
The Decennial Census 1790 to 2000
The Census Bureau collects data through surveys and conducts statistical analysis of the results to be used in policy-making desisons by the U.S. government. The mission and operations of the U.S. Census Bureau are laid out in Title 13 of the United States Code.
The completed decennial census answers such questions as; Will the increase in the older population bankrupt the Social Security system? Would federal subsidies to inner-city areas help lower the unemployment rate? Are undocumented immigrants creating an undue burden on the criminal justice systems in border counties?
Politicians are not completely altruistic, and have been known to apply demographics for their own personal use when campaign time rolls around asking, what are the characteristics of a candidate’s supporters and where are those voters located?
Published in print since 1878, the Abstract has hundreds of statistical tables summarizing the social, political, and economic scene in the United States, as well as an international section.
Subjects Planned for the 2010 Census and American Community Survey
The expected stakeholders of the Census Bureau are Federal government departments and agencies, who use the data to make decisions, as well as state and local government officials. Private sector companies are interested in the census outcome, because they will use this in order to target specific markets for their products. The world of academia uses the census data to conduct research, while non-governmental organizations use the data to assess the socio-economic conditions of certain groups.
Between 2000and 2008, the Census Bureau gave $2.68 billion to 3,315 contractors. The 10 biggest recipients were:
Harris Corporation $339,881,156
Northrup Grumman Corporation $252,665,160
Lockheed Martin Corporation $178,055,507
J & B Truck Repair $156,110,000
Coronado Group Ltd $119,516,185
WPP Group Plc $97,615,676
Oracle Corporation $89,517,117
Qinetiq North America Operations Llc $87,210,519
International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) $86,265,784
Electronic Data Systems Corporation $86,254,000
Field Data Collection Automation FDCA Program:
In order to reduce the cost of the census, the Census Bureau has recognized the need to reduce the amount of paper used in collection. Thus, for 2010, the Bureau proposed the use of handheld computers (HHCs) equipped with GPS tracking systems in order to completely restructure the data collection process. So far the HHC plan is behind schedule in programming these devices, as well as training the 500,000 temporary interviewers to use the equipment. Census Bureau director Steve H. Murdock blamed the delay on a lack of communication between the Bureau and the prime contractor for the FDCA program. He explained in a press release that the contractor had difficulty developing the full scope of the project within the Bureau’s deadline.
Violating the Privacy of Japanese-Americans
The US Census Bureau gave up names of Japanese-Americans during WWII. This contributed to the racism and prejudice against them at the time, and was a blatant violation of Title 13, which prohibits the re-releasing of information about individuals.
Arab Americans Object to Sending of Data to Department of Homeland Security
Confidentiality Issues Remain Today
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC) criticize the Bureau's provision of detailed data on individuals of Arab descent to the Department of Homeland Security, and urged the Bureau to create "a new outside body to advise the bureau on privacy and civil liberties issues."
Most controversies relating to the Census Bureau have to do with the counting of minorities and other marginalized groups, such as the homeless, prisoners and undocumented workers. According to the Constitution, the census should count everyone in the country. Attempts to bend that requirement inevitably arise, because the stakes are so high. The census determines the number of representatives elected from each state and the distribution of federal money among the states.
The Bureau counts prisoners in the districts in which they are incarcerated. Some argue that this practice is a violation of international treaty. Counting prisoners as local residents, despite the fact that they can’t vote or participate in the communities where they are incarcerated, leads to unequal distributions of power.
The 1990 census was criticized for excluding one Native American in every eight. The statisticians' solution is to follow each census with a quality check, surveying representative areas to create a picture of those overlooked in the full count and correcting the figures accordingly. Because of the transient nature of many homeless people, it is virtually impossible to count the whole of this population and leads to distortion as to the nature of homelessness and the magnitude of the problem. In 1992, the cities of Baltimore and San Francisco, along with homeless advocates, sued the Bureau, accusing it of deliberately setting out to undercount the homeless during its one-night count of street people for the 1990 census.
After the 2000 census, the strongest disputation of count results came from the state of Utah
, which challenged the results in two different ways. Utah was extremely close to gaining a fourth Congressional seat. The Census Bureau counted members of the military serving abroad as residents of their home state, but did not count as residents people from Utah traveling abroad as religious missionaries. If this policy had been changed, Utah would have received an additional seat at the expense of North Carolina
. After losing a lawsuit over this matter, the state of Utah then filed another lawsuit alleging that the statistical methods used in computing the state populations were improper and cost Utah the seat. This case made it to the Supreme Court
, but Utah was again defeated.
Since 1977, under Office of Management and Budget Statistical Directive 15, the Census Bureau has recognized five basic categories: American Indian or Alaskan Native, Asian or Pacific Islander, Hispanic, black, and white. The 2000 Census was the first time survey options for multiracial Americans were provided. PROJECT RACE
(Reclassify All Children Equally) and AMEA
(Association of MultiEthnic Americans) argue that the previous Census form forces those with parents of different races to deny or suppress part of their heritage. In 1997, the decision to use the instruction "mark one or more races" was reached after finding that an increasing number of children are from interracial unions and a need to measure the increased diversity in the United States.
Kincannon retired on January 3, 2008, after 6 years as director, and 29 years at the Census Bureau. Kincannon was born in Waco, Texas in 1940. In 1963 he earned an economics degree from the University of Texas, Austin, and continued post graduate work in statistics and economics at George Washington University, Georgetown University and University of Maryland. He took a position as a statistician at the U.S. Census Bureau in 1963. He left the Bureau in 1975 during the Ford administration, but returned upon the election of Ronald Reagan. This time he held the position of deputy director and chief operating officer in January 1982 after being recommended by Reagan’s first Bureau Director, Bruce Chapman. From 1992 to 2000 Kincannon served as the First Chief Statistician in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and development in Paris. Kincannon was nominated for the position of director of the Census Bureau by George W. Bush in 2001 and confirmed by the Senate on March 13, 2002. In November 2006, Kincannon, and his deputy director, Hermann Habermann, abruptly decided to quit, acknowledging tensions with their bosses in the Bush administration, but giving no other details. He did stay on as acting director until the position was filled more than a year later.
All Past Directors
Founded: The first Census was conducted in 1790, but the Census Bureau was not made a permanent institution until 1902.
Annual Budget: $2,634,622,000 (FY2009 proposed)
Employees: In 2006, the Census Bureau had a permanent staff of 5,593 employees. However, the work force expands dramatically when the census is taken every 10 years. About 860,000 temporary workers were hired for Census 2000.
U.S. Census Bureau