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NARA expects to digitally release the 1950 population census schedules for researcher use on April 1, 2022, which is 72 years after the official 1950 census day of April 1, 1950. This is the fourth in a series of blog posts on the 1950 census.

 

After the enumerators finished collecting information from the people, the Bureau of the Census compiled the data in statistically useful ways and published it in a variety of formats intended to meet the needs of diverse policymakers and other interested persons. This process took significant time and resulted in a myriad of publication “series” as the Bureau called them.  Lists of the statistical publications resulting from 1950 census data are in the Catalog of United States Census Publications, 1950 (and numerous later editions, such as 1951-1955).

 

For example, Series “PC” contained “preliminary and advance figures” from the data. PC-1 through PC-4 were preliminary data subject to correction and revision that would be superseded by final numbers published in later reports. PC-5, PC-6, and PC-7 reported data “based on a special preliminary sample drawn from the complete census.”  Series PC-8 through PC-11 were called “Advance Reports.” PC-8 included a separate report for each state and the District of Columbia. PC-9 was for the United States as a whole. PC-10 included census tract figures for 69 large cities. PC-11 gave final population counts for U.S. territories and possessions.

 

Shown below on the left is PC-11, No. 1, Population of Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico, April 1, 1950, issued December 5, 1950.  It is a single page that gives summary population numbers for Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico for 1940 and 1950, as well as the percentage changes from 1930 to 1940, 1940, and 1940 to 1950.  At the right is PC-11, No. 2, Population of American Samoa, Canal Zone, Guam, and the Virgin Islands of the United States: April 1, 1950, issued on February 14, 1951, that contains summary information similar to No. 1.

 

PC-11, No. 1PC-11, No. 2

PC-11, No. 1, Population of Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico, April 1, 1950, issued December 5, 1950

PC-11, No. 1, Population of Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico, April 1, 1950 (NAID 195980219)

PC-11, No. 2, Population of American Samoa, Canal Zone, Guam, and the Virgin Islands of the United States: April 1, 1950 (NAID 195980220)

 

 

After more data was compiled, a longer 6 page report was issued as PC-11, No. 3, Population of American Samoa, Canal Zone, Guam, and the Virgin Islands of the United States: April 1, 1950.  Issued on January 20, 1952, it contains in six pages of population data individual villages, quarters, islands, towns, cities, court districts, counties, and municipalities in these areas.

 

First page of PC-11, No. 3, Population of American Samoa, Canal Zone, Guam, and the Virgin Islands of the United States: April 1, 1950, issued on January 20, 1952 (NAID 195980221)Image:  First page of PC-11, No. 3, Population of American Samoa, Canal Zone, Guam, and the Virgin Islands of the United States: April 1, 1950 (NAID 195980221).

 

While statistical data can seem boring and provides no information about a specific person, it can help provide context to an individual’s life.

NARA expects to digitally release the 1950 population census schedules for researcher use on April 1, 2022, which is 72 years after the official 1950 census day of April 1, 1950. This is the third in a series of blog posts on the 1950 census.

 

The 1950 censuses of population, housing, and agriculture were intended to provide comprehensive, authoritative, and official records of the people, their homes, and their farming activities.  Many uses were made of the compiled data:  

 

  • Congress determined the number of members of the House of Representatives to which each State was entitled.
  • State legislatures established Congressional districts and apportioned representation in state legislative bodies.
  • Cities and towns determined the need for expansion of schools and other public services.
  • Governmental and private agencies analyzed characteristics and location of the labor force, occupational skills, extent of unemployment, sources of new workers, and so forth.
  • Businessmen could decide where and how much of their product they could sell and measure other features of their market.
  • The quantity and quality of our housing supply and numbers and characteristics of low-income families were useful to governmental and private agencies concerned with economic and social problems.
  • Information on land values, farm acreage, farm tenancy, types and quantities of crops, and so forth, was useful for farm organizations, public agencies, and others, and often formed the basis for legislative and administrative programs.
  • Comparing 1950 census data with those of previous censuses would provide information about changes in the characteristics and geographical distribution of our population.
  • The results of the 1950 census would help the Bureau of the Census assure greater accuracy in surveys conducted between decennial census years.

 

Note:  Of the various data collection forms used during the 1950 census, only the population schedules survive - as microfilmed by the Bureau of the Census in 1952. The 1950 agricultural schedules for individual farms are not extant.  Housing information for individual households is also not extant; this information was collected on the reverse (back) side of the population schedule, but that side of the form was not microfilmed in 1952.

 

Adapted from Urban and Rural Enumerator’s Reference Manual, 1950 Census of the United States, pages 1-2.

NARA expects to digitally release the 1950 population census schedules for researcher use on April 1, 2022, which is 72 years after the official 1950 census day of April 1, 1950. This is the second in a series of blog posts on the 1950 census.

 

The career employees of the Bureau of the Census planned the questions, forms, procedures, enumeration district boundaries, and a myriad of other necessary things for the taking of the 1950 census. However, it took a lot of people – "boots on the ground" – to actually accomplish the counting of the 152.3 million people in the United States plus its territories and possessions.

 

Item, "Technical Training Program - 1950 Census" from "[Folder 2] Flow Charts, 17th Decennial Census, 1950" (NAID 195980236), in series "Narrative Histories, Committee Minutes, and Procedural Manuals Primarily Relating to the 17th Decennial Census" (NAID 5634057).

 

Solid systematic training of field personnel was essential to a successful census, so the Bureau of the Census established a four-step plan to accomplish this critical task. First came the "Chief Instructors School" during December 12-30, 1949, for the 26 chief instructors who would be expert trainers in field operations, population, agriculture, personnel, social statistics, and geography.

 

Next came the "Instructors Schools" from January 9 to March 3, 1950. Classes were held in Washington, DC, to teach 250 instructors; in Saint Louis, Missouri, to teach 100 instructors; and in San Francisco, California, to teach 50 instructors.

 

Third, most of the newly trained instructors fanned out across the country to train 8,300 Crew Leaders at 508 locations from March 8 to 22, 1950. Census district supervisors and assistant supervisors also attended these classes.

 

Finally, the newly-mined Crew Leaders trained 140,000 Enumerators at "not more than 5,000 training locations" from March 27 to 31, 1950, which was just in time to begin the enumeration on the official census day of April 1, 1950!  This, by the way, was about 20,000 more enumerators than were needed for the 1940 census!

 

Enumerator interviewing a family for the census: "Enumeration," 1940 Census (NAID 6200775).

NARA expects to digitally release the 1950 population census schedules for researcher use on April 1, 2022, which is 72 years after the official 1950 census day of April 1, 1950. This is the first in a series of blog posts on the 1950 census.

 

The Bureau of the Census sought to assure that the forms and procedures used during the taking of the 1950 census would accomplish certain tasks, including the following:

 

  • Provide summary statistical data of greatest value to the nation.

 

  • Insure that the traditionally high standards of accuracy and reliability of census were maintained.

 

  • Minimize the burden on the respondents in answering the questions or filling out the forms.

 

  • Minimize the cost of the census to the government and the taxpayer.

 

The Bureau started intensive planning work in 1948. It consulted groups in government, business, farming, labor, and other fields to find out what kind of information was most needed. Then the Bureau focused on the best way to obtain the information by testing many types of forms in different parts of the country, asking the same questions in different ways, and determining the cost and effectiveness of each procedure. The final forms used during the census were the result of this process.

 

--Adapted from Urban and Rural Enumerator’s Reference Manual, 1950 Census of the United States, page 1.