The first U.S. census asked just four questions

Over the 230-year history of the census, its questions about national origin tracked attitudes about race and nationalism.


From Atlas Obscura:

Since 1790, every ten years, the federal government goes around trying to gather information about every person in the United States. The decennial census is mandated by the Constitution, and it’s happened 23 times in American history.

Over these decades, the information the government has asked for has changed dramatically. The original census, in 1790, asked just four questions.

  • The number of free white males aged: under 16 years and of 16 years and upward
  • Number of free white females
  • Number of other free persons
  • Number of slaves

The current administration is proposing a controversial change to the 2020 census: asking about citizenship status. Though the census has long been concerned with the national origin and naturalization status of people living in America, the current proposal would make the 2020 census the first time in American history that the government would ask the question “Is this person a citizen?” about every individual in America…

Continue reading at Atlas Obscura

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