Census questions reflect statistics the government wished to gather in more detail from among the population of the residents of the United States. Language used in these questions, particularly when read with a twenty-first century lens, can be surprising if not shocking. This reflects the language of the day regarding terms and terminology.
All of the language used below reflects actual questions asked in the census for a given year.
For more details, please see:
Can person speak English? 1900-1930.
(21) Was the person at work for pay or profit in private or nonemergency government work during the week of March 24 - 30?
(22) If not, was he at work on, or assigned to, public emergency work (WPA, NYA, CCC, etc.) during the week of March 24 - 30?
(23) If the person was neither at work or assigned public emergency work: was this person seeking work?
(24) If not seeking work, did he have a job or business?
(25) For persons answering “No” to questions 21, 22, 23, and 24; indicate whether engaged in home housework (H), in school (S), unable to work (U), or Other (Ot).
(26) If the person was at work in private or non emergency government employment: how many hours did he work in the week of March 24 - 30?
(27) If the person was seeking work or assigned to non public emergency work: what was the duration, in weeks, of his unemployment?
(31) Number of weeks worked in 1939 (or equivalent of full time weeks).
(32) Amount of money, wages, or salary received (including commissions).
(33) Did this person receive income of more than $50 from sources other than money wages or salary?
Place of birth: 1850-1940.
See American Indians in the Federal Decennial Census, 1790-1930, for details on enumeration of Native Americans in the population schedules.
|Nature of Question||Notes|
|Tribe||Tribe of person, tribe of father, tribe of mother: 1900-1910.|
|Lineage||Lineage and heritage as to American Indian, White, and/or Black : 1900-1910; 1930.|
|Marriage||Touches on number of marriages and polygamy: 1900-1910.|
|Education||Name of educational institution from which graduated: 1910.|
|Citizenship and Land Ownership||Citizenship, acquisition of land, and type of housing: 1900-1910.|
|1850||Blank = White; B = Black; M = Mulatto|
|1860||W = White; B = Black; M = Mulatto|
|1870||W = White; B = Black; M = Mulatto; C = Chinese (i.e., all east Asians); I = American Indian|
|1880||W = White; B = Black; M = Mulatto; C = Chinese (i.e., all east Asians); I = American Indian|
|1900||W = White; B = Black; Ch = Chinese; Jp = Japanese; In = American Indian|
|1910||W = White; B = Black; Mu = Mulatto; Ch = Chinese; Jp = Japanese; In = American Indian; Ot = Other races.|
|1920||W = White; B = Black; Mu = Mulatto; Ch = Chinese; Jp = Japanese; In = American Indian; Ot = Other races.|
|1930||W = White; Neg = Black; Mex = Mexican; In = American Indian; Ch = Chinese; Jp = Japanese; Fil = Filipino; Hin = Hindu; Kor = Korean. All other races to be written out in full.|
|1940||W = White; Neg = Black; In = American Indian; Chi = Chinese; Jp = Japanese; Fil = Filipino; Hin = Hindu; Kor = Korean. All other races, spell out in full.|
Anderson, Margo J. The American Census: A Social History. (2nd ed.). New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015. Find in a Library.
Petro, Diane. "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" Prologue Magazine 44 (1) (Spring 2012). Online.
Wines, Michael. "The Long History of the U.S. Government Asking Americans If They Are Citizens." New York Times, July 12, 2019. Online.