Introduction to Census

The first census was conducted in 1790 and counted 3.9 million people. Then the census was taken in the 13 original states, plus the districts of Kentucky, Maine, Vermont, and the Southwest Territory (of Tennessee). Federal Marshalls asked six questions: name of head of family and number of persons in household, and the number of persons in each household of the following descriptions: Free White males 16 years and upward, free White males under 16 years, free White females, all other free persons (by sex and color) and enslaved people.

Census 2000, taken April 1, 2000, counted 281,421,906 people in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The questionnaire included seven questions for each household: name, sex, age, relationship, Hispanic origin, race, and whether the housing unit was owned or rented. In addition to these seven questions, about 17 percent of the households got a much longer questionnaire including questions about ancestry, income, mortgage, and size of the housing unit. Census 2000 not only counted the population, but also sampled the socio-economic status of the population, providing a tool for government, educators, business owners, and others to get a snapshot of the state of the nation.

The U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 2 mandates that an apportionment of representatives among the states, for the House of Representatives, be carried out every ten years (decennially). Apportionment is the process of dividing the 435 seats in the US House of Representatives among the 50 states. Congress decides the method to carry out the apportionment and, since 1940, has used the method of ‘equal proportions’ in accordance with Title 2, US Code.

Using equal portions, each state is assigned one congressional seat (as provided by the Constitution). The apportionment formula then allocates the remaining 385 seats one at a time among the 50 states until all 435 seats are assigned.

In addition to apportionment, the decennial census results are used to:

distribute almost $200 billion annually in Federal and state, local, and tribal funds;
draw state legislative districts;
evaluate the success of programs or identify populations in need of services;
and many other purposes. Visit this site for a comprehensive review of each of the questions and why it is asked.


Using the Library Catalog

To retrieve all census materials located in the library, click on the SUBJECT tab and type in "UNITED STATES CENSUS"
For a specific census, type in UNITED STATES CENSUS and the number of the census. For example:
Type UNITED STATES CENSUS 22nd to retrieve records for the 2000 census (the 22nd census of the United States).
To find the reports for a specific state, use the subject heading [state] CENSUS 2000, e.g., NORTH CAROLINA CENSUS 2000.
To find reports on specific cities, it is best to use the KEYWORD search option. Type [city] CENSUS, e.g., WILMINGTON CENSUS or use a SUBJECT search for a county, e.g., New Hanover County (N.C.) -- Census, 9th, 1870.



Starting Points

America: History & Life

Provides a robust source of information focusing on the history and life of the United States and Canada. Selective indexing includes over a thousand journals dating back over 55 years.

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Indexes and summarizes article and reviews about U.S. and Canadian history published since 1955.
Historical Abstracts

Historical Abstracts covers the history of the world (excluding the United States and Canada) focusing on the 15th century forward, including art history, world history, military history, women's history, history of education, foreign languages and literatures, and more.

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Covers the history of the world (excluding the United States and Canada) from 1450 to the present.


Bureau of the Census

Homepage for the United States Census Bureau. Provides information on population research, programs and surveys, and census careers.

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Click on "Subjects A to Z" for text reports, data tables, and some pdf images of printed reports; including some information that may not be published elsewhere. Click on "Publications" for pdf reports.
State & County QuickFacts - U.S. Census Bureau

Fast, easy access to facts about people, business, and geography

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Use this retrieval tool to obtain, either by state, county or congressional district, general profiles (including those from the publication USA Counties), County Business Patterns Economic Profiles, or to retrieve data from the 1990 decennial census data tables using the Bureau's Data Lookup tool.

Contact Librarian

Coordinator of Government Information
Phone Number: 

Citation, Writing & Presentation Resources

Citing Census Data

Here is an example of how to cite census data in APA format:

U.S. Census Bureau. 2000. "Census 2000 Summary File 3 (SF3) - Sample Data, Table P19 Age by Language Spoken at Home by Ability to Speak English for the Population 5 Years and Over". Retrieved 25 September 2002 from U.S. Census  In text Citation: (U.S. Census Bureau, 2000)

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