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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Census taker visits a family living in a caravan, Netherlands 1925

A census is the procedure of systematically acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population. It is a regularly occurring and official count of a particular population.[1][2] The term is used mostly in connection with national population and door-to-door censuses (to be taken every 10 years according to United Nations recommendations), agriculture, and business censuses. The term itself comes from Latin: during the Roman Republic the census was a list that kept track of all adult males fit for military service.

The census can be contrasted with sampling in which information is obtained only from a subset of a population, sometimes as an Intercensal estimate. Census data is commonly used for research, business marketing, and planning as well as a base for sampling surveys. In some countries, census data is used to apportion electoral representation (sometimes controversially - e.g. see Utah v. Evans).


Census and privacy

While the census provides a useful way of obtaining statistical information about a population, such information can sometimes lead to abuses, political or otherwise, made possible by the linking of individuals' identities to anonymous census data.[3] This consideration is particularly important when individuals' census responses are made available in microdata form, but even aggregate-level data can result in privacy breaches when dealing with small areas and/or rare subpopulations.

For instance, when reporting data from a large city, it might be appropriate to give the average income for black males aged between 50 and 60. However, doing this for a town that only has two black males in this age group would be a breach of privacy: either of those people, knowing their own income and the reported average, could determine the other person's income.

Typically, census data is processed to obscure individual information. Some agencies do this by intentionally introducing small statistical errors to prevent the identification of individuals in marginal populations;[4] others swap variables for similar respondents. Whatever measures have been taken to reduce the privacy risk in census data, new technology in the form of better electronic analysis of data poses increasing challenges to the protection of sensitive individual information.

Ancient and medieval censuses



Censuses in Egypt are said to have been taken during the early Pharaonic period in 3340 BC and in 3050 BC.


The world's oldest extant census data comes from China sometime before the Xia Dynasty, over 4,000 years ago, counting some 13 million people.[5][6] The second oldest extant data in the world comes from the Han Dynasty, in what is perhaps China's most well-known ancient census.[7][8] Taken in the fall of 2 AD, it is considered by scholars to be quite accurate.[9] By that time, there were 57.67 million people registered in 12.36 million households living in China.[10][11][12] The third oldest preserved census is also from the Han, dating back to 140 AD, when only a few more than 48 million people were recorded. Mass migrations into what is today southern China are believed to be behind this massive demographic decline. Numerous other census data survives from Imperial China.


One of the earliest documented censuses was taken in 500-499 BC by the Persian Empire's military for issuing land grants, and taxation purposes.[13]


In India, censuses were conducted in the Mauryan Empire as described in Chanakya's (c. 350-283 BC) Arthashastra, which prescribed the collection of population statistics as a measure of state policy for the purpose of taxation. It contains a detailed description of methods of conducting population, economic and agricultural censuses.[14]


Rome conducted censuses to determine taxes (see Censor (ancient Rome)). Moreover, the word 'census' originates in ancient Rome from the Latin word 'censere' (meaning ‘estimate’). The Roman census was the most developed of any recorded in the ancient world[citation needed] and it played a crucial role in the administration of the Roman Empire. The Roman census was carried out every five years[15]. It provided a register of citizens and their property from which their duties and privileges could be listed.

Umayyad Caliphate

In the Middle Ages, the Caliphate began conducting regular censuses soon after its formation, beginning with the one ordered by the second Rashidun caliph, Umar.[16]

Medieval Europe

The most famous census in medieval Europe is the Domesday Book, undertaken in 1086 by William I of England so that he could properly tax the land he had recently conquered. In 1183, a census was taken of the crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, to ascertain the number of men and amount of money that could possibly be raised against an invasion by Saladin, sultan of Egypt and Syria.

Inca Empire

In the 15th century, the Inca Empire had a unique way to record census information. The Incas did not have any written language but recorded information collected during censuses and other numeric information as well as non-numeric data on quipus, strings from llama or alpaca hair or cotton cords with numeric and other values encoded by knots in a base-10 positional system.

Modern censuses


A partial and incomplete population census was taken in Afghanistan in 1980. A census was planned for 2007.[17]


The latest population census was conducted in Albania in April 2001.[18][19] Prior to that, a census was conducted in 1989 at the end of the communist regime.


Population and housing censuses have been carried out in Algeria in 1967, 1977, 1987, 1998, and 2008. The next census is in 2016.

Antigua and Barbuda

A Population & Housing Census was carried out in 2001.


National population census are carried out in Argentina roughly every ten years, the last one being in 2001.

More about census, see: National Institute of Statistics and Census of Argentina.


The Austrian census is run by the Statistik Austria. It is carried out every ten years, the last one being in 2001.


The Australian census is operated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. It is currently conducted every five years, the last occurrence being on August 8, 2006. Past Australian censuses were conducted in 1911, 1921, 1933, 1947, 1954, and 1961 - 2006 every five years. In 2006, for the first time, Australians were able to complete their census online.


Population censuses were conducted by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) in 1974, 1981, 1991 and 2001.


Censuses on population size in Barbados are conducted by the Barbados Statistical Service (BSS), the last major census conducted was 2000, and one is scheduled for 2010.


Population censuses have been taken in Benin in 1978, 1992 and 2002.


Population and housing censuses have been carried out in Bolivia in 1992 and 2001.


A census was taken by apostolic vicar the bishop Pavao Dragicevic in 1743.


The Brazilian census is carried out by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics every 10 years. The last one was in 2000. Earlier censuses were taken in 1872 (the first), 1900, 1920, 1941, 1950, 1960, 1970, 1980 and 1991.

Brazil's Demographic Census is one of the most hierarchical collection of census data in the world. Its hierarchies include: Brazil (Country), Major Regions, States, Macro-regions, micro-regions, municipalities, districts, sub-districts, Neighborhoods and census tracts.

Depending on the administrative hierarchy, some types of data are not published to respect confidentiality.

For example:

1. The lower area of data collection is the census tract, with approximately 300 households, and information is collected on age, condition of the home, gender, income, among others.

2. Districts: information on race, color, religion, disability, etc.

3. Municipalities (cities): in addition to the information already described, there is information of GDP, industrial production, agricultural production, migration between cities to study or work, to live migration, inflation, employment rates, number of industries, the quantity of trade, etc. Information is collected with handheld computers equipped with GPS receivers and digitized maps.

For more information, see the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE).


Bulgarian governors organized a national census soon after the liberation of the Bulgarian lands. In 1881 a census took place in the Principality, while in 1884 a census was organized in Eastern Rumelia. The first census covering the unified state took place in 1888.

Since these first accounts, Bulgarian authorities had organized several population censuses: 1892, 1900, 1905, 1910, 1920, 1926, 1934, 1946, 1956, 1965, 1975, 1985, 1992 and 2001.

The data provided in the Bulgarian censuses from 1888 until WW-II is regarded as highly reliable according to the standards of the time. The Bulgarian leading statisticians of the period were generally educated in Western universities and participated vividly in the international cooperation, therefore insisted and succeeded in introducing the best practices of the time. The quality of the data provided of later censuses is a matter of debate.


The Canadian census is run by Statistics Canada. The 1666 census of New France was conducted by French intendant Jean Talon, when he took a census to ascertain the number of people living in New France. The method and data was later used when Canada was founded 280 years later. The individual provinces (sometimes in conjunction with each other) conducted censuses in the 19th century and before. In 1871, Canada's first formal census was conducted, which counted the population of Nova Scotia, Ontario, New Brunswick, and Quebec.

Censuses in Canada are conducted in five-year intervals. The last two censuses were conducted in 2001 and 2006. Censuses taken in mid-decade (1976, 1986, 1996, etc.) are referred to as quinquennial censuses. Others are referred to as decennial censuses. The first quinquennial census was conducted in 1956.

For the 2006 Census of Canada, respondents were able, for the first time, to choose to complete their census questionnaire online. Other options for answering the questionnaire include postal mail (using a pre-paid envelope) and telephone (using an 800 number).

See also: Canada 2001 Census, Canada 2006 Census.


In the Province of Alberta, Section 57 of its Municipal Government Act (MGA)[20] enables municipalities to perform their own censuses on any given year. An official municipal census must be conducted no earlier than April 1 and no later than June 30 of the same year, according to the MGA's Determination of Population Regulation.[21] If municipalities choose to make their census count official, the new population must be submitted to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs[22] prior to September 1 of the year the census was performed. The latest census counts for Alberta's municipalities are released in the Ministry's annual Official Population List[23] publication.

Alberta Population is a website that builds upon the data provided by the Province and Statistics Canada. It compares municipal and federal census results by municipality, analyses historic population trends by municipality, and provides detailed annual population summaries.


National population censuses are carried out in Chile every ten years by the INE (National Statistics Office), the last one being in 2002.


Population censuses have been taken in the Republic of China and the People's Republic of China in 1913, 1944, 1953, 1964, 1982, 1990 and 2000.[24] These were the world's biggest censuses as they attempted to count every man, woman and child in the most populous nation in the world. Some 6 million enumerators were engaged in the 2000 census. The next national population census will start on November 1, 2010.[25]

Between National Population Censuses, 1% National Population Sample Surveys were taken in 1987, 1995, 2005 and 0.1% National Population Sample Surveys have been taken annually since 2000.[26]

National agricultural, economic, and industrial censuses are also taken on a regular basis. The first economic census was taken in 2004 and the second 2008.[27]

Costa Rica

Costa Rica carried out its 9th population census in 2000. INEC, National Institute of Statistics and Census is in charge of conduct these censuses. Past Costa Rican censuses were conducted in 1864, 1883, 1892, 1927, 1950, 1963, 1973 and 1984.

Czech Republic

Census in the Czech Republic is carried out every 10 years by the Czech Statistical Office. The last census was taken in 2001. Earlier censuses were taken in 1869, 1880, 1890, 1900, 1910, 1921, 1930, 1950, 1961, 1970, 1980 and 1991.


The first Danish census was in 1700-1701, and contained statistical information about adult men. Only about half of it still exists. A census of school children was taken during the 1730s.

Following these early undertakings, the first census to attempt completely covering all citizens (including women and children who had previously been listed only as numbers) of Denmark-Norway was taken in 1769.[28] At that point there were 797 584 citizens in the kingdom. Georg Christian Oeder took a statistical census in 1771 which covered Copenhagen, Sjælland, Møn, and Bornholm.

After that, censuses followed somewhat regularly in 1787, 1801, and 1834, and between 1840 and 1860, the censuses were taken every five years, and then every ten years until 1890. Special censuses for Copenhagen were taken in 1885 and 1895.

In the 20th century, censuses were taken every five years from 1901 to 1921, and then every ten years from 1930. The last traditional census was taken in 1970.

A limited population census based on registers was taken in 1976. From 1981 and each year onwards information that corresponds to a population and housing census is retrieved from registers. Denmark was the first country in the world to conduct these censuses from administrative registers. The most important registers are the Population Register (Det Centrale Personregister), the Building and Dwelling Register and the Enterprise Register. The central statistical office, Statistics Denmark is responsible for compiling these data. This information is available online in the Statbank Denmark[29].

It is possible to search a portion of the Danish censuses online at the Dansk Demografisk Database[30], and also view scanned versions at Arkivalier Online[31].


The Statistical Department of the Ministry of Finance conducted the first census in 1882, which considered as a preparatory step; the first true population census was conducted in 1897. Thereafter, censuses were conducted at ten-year intervals in 1907, 1917, 1927 and so on.


Population censuses have been taken in Estonia in 1881, 1897, 1922, 1934, 1959, 1970, 1979, 1989 and 2000.[32] The responsible institution is the Statistics Estonia.[33]


Three censuses have been taken in Ethiopia: 1984, 1994 and in 2007. The responsible institution is the Central Statistical Agency.

Most of the census in 2007 was taken in August, while the Somali Region and the Afar Region were not covered. The northern Afar region is a remote, hot and arid area. The eastern Somali region (Ogaden) hosts a large nomadic Somali population and is a conflict area where Ethiopian regular forces are fighting against Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF).


The first population census was taken in 1749 when Finland was a part of Sweden. The most recent census took place on December 31, 2000.


The census in France is carried out by INSEE. Since 2004, a partial census is carried out every year, and the results published as averages over 5 years.


The first systematic population on the European continent was taken in 1719 in Prussia (roughly corresponding to today's northern Germany and western Poland).

The first large-scale census in the German Empire took place in 1895. Attempts at introducing a census in West Germany sparked strong popular resentment in the 1980s since many quite personal questions were asked. Some campaigned for a boycott. In the end the Constitutional Court stopped the census in 1980 and 1983. The last census was in 1987. Germany has since used population samples in combination with statistical methods, in place of a full census.


Census takes place every 10 years and is carried out by the National Statistical Service of Greece.[34] Last census was in 2001.


Modern population censuses have been taken in Guatemala in 1930, 1950, 1964, 1973, 1981, 1994 and in 2002. Controversial cenuses include those in 1950 and 1964 (misclassification of the Maya population) and 1994 (generally questioned). About 14,000,000 people live in Guatemala as of July 2009.

Relaciones Geográficas of Mexico and Guatemala, 1577-1585.

On May 25, 1577, King Philip II of Spain ordered by royal cédula the preparation of a general description of Spain's holdings in the Indies. Instructions and a questionnaire, issued in 1577 by the Office of the Cronista Mayor-Cosmógrafo, were distributed to local officials in the Viceroyalties of New Spain and Peru to direct the gathering of information. The questionnaire, composed of fifty items, was designed to elicit basic information about the nature of the land and the life of its peoples. The replies, known as "relaciones geográficas," were written between 1579 and 1585 and were returned to the Cronista Mayor-Cosmógrafo in Spain by the Council of the Indies.

Hong Kong

Census takes place every 10 years and by-census between two censuses by the Census and Statistics Department of Hong Kong. The last census was conducted in 2001 and the last by-census was taken in 2006.


Official decennial censuses have been taken in Hungary since 1870; the latest one – in line with the recommendations of the United Nations and the Statistical Office of the European Union – was carried out in 2001. Starting from 1880 the Hungarian census system was based on native language (the language spoken at home in the early life of the person and at the time of the survey), vulgar language (the most frequently used language in the family), and other spoken languages.


The first Icelandic census took place in 1703, following upon the first Danish census of 1700–1701. Further censuses were carried out in 1801, 1845 and 1865. The 1703 exercise was the first ever census to cover all inhabitants of an entire country, mentioning the name, age and social position of each individual. All of the information still exists, although some of the original documents have been lost.

The setting up, in 1952, of the National Registry (Þjóðskrá) eliminated the need for censuses. All those born in Iceland, and all new residents, are automatically registered. Individuals are identified in the registry by means of a national identification number (the so-called kennitala), a number composed of the date of birth in the format ddmmyy and four additional digits, the third of which is a control digit, and the last of which indicates the century in which the person was born (9 for the 1900s and 0 for the 2000s).

The National Registry doubles as an electoral register. Likewise, all bank accounts are linked to the national identification of the owner (companies and institutions all have their own identification numbers).


The decennial census of India is the primary source of information about the demographic characteristics of the population of India, which is the second most populous country in the world.

The first census in India in modern times is dated 1901. It started as far back as in 1860 and was finished in 1871. Starting from there, a population census has been carried out every 10 years, the latest being the fourteenth in February-March 2001.

The census is carried out by the office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India, Delhi an office in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, under the 1948 Census of India Act. The act gives Central Government many powers like to notify a date for Census, power to ask for the services of any citizen for census work. The law makes it compulsory for every citizen to answer the census questions truthfully. The Act provides penalties for giving false answers or not giving answers at all to the census questionnaire. One of the most important provisions of law is the guarantee for the maintenance of secrecy of the information collected at the census of each individual. The census records are not open to inspection and also not admissible in evidence.

The census happens in two phases: first, house listing and house numbering operations; and second, the actual population enumeration phase. The census is carried out by the canvassing method. In this method, each and every household is visited and the information is collected by specially trained enumerators.

9 February 2001, the first day of the 2001 census was celebrated as the census day.


The first population census was done during the colonial era, 1930. Before that, a non-overall census was already conducted in 1920. After that census was done irregularly. The first census after independence was 1961, followed by 1971. Since 1980 it is conducted regularly every 10 years. In between, there is also economical census (every 10 years, five years after population census) and agricultural census (three years after population census).


Main article: Demographics of Iran

The Statistical Center of Iran carries out nationwide population and housing censuses every 10 years, the last of which occurred in 2006 (1385 AP). In the Islamic Republic of Iran, based on Article 4 of the Act of the Statistical Center of Iran (SCI), the census shall be implemented once every 10 years according to the Presidential decree. So far there have been 6 incidences of population census in Iran in the years 1956, 1966, 1976, 1986, 1996, and 2006; all taken in accordance with scientific methods.


The census in Ireland is carried out by the Central Statistics Office.[35] The census is carried out every five years, with more detailed information collected in years ending in 1 and less in the years ending in 6. The 1976 census was cancelled as a cost-saving measure, but a supplementary census was held in 1979 after it became apparent that the 1970s had seen major demographic changes.[36] The census scheduled for 2001 was postponed until 2002 due to the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.[37]

The most recent census took place on 23 April 2006.[38] According to the 2006 form, "any person who fails or refuses to provide information or who knowingly provides false information may be subject to a fine of up to €25,000," under the Central Statistics Act 1993. On the CSO website, instructions for non-English speaking residents of Ireland were available. They were mock copies of the census forms, with all headings/questions etc. being translated into a particular language. These were not to be filled out, but were only a guide on how to fill out the English or Irish form. This census also asked two new questions relating to ownership of PCs and Internet connection.

Data from the 1911 Census for the island of Ireland was made publicly available in 1961,[39] and are being published online.[40] Subsequent census records will be made publicly available 100 years after collection.[39]

Questions relating to the ability to speak the Irish Language are included in the census. The figures obtained have been criticised as inflated by cognitive biases, such as response bias or wishful thinking. The 2006 census included an additional question on frequency of speaking Irish.


The first census in the state of Israel was held in November 1948, six months after its creation, to establish the population registry.[41] Subsequent censuses were conducted by the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics (ICBS) in 1961, 1972, 1983 and 1995.[41] In these, 20% of households completed a detailed survey and the remainder a shorter questionaire.[41] There is no legal requirement to hold a census within a given interval; in practice, the ICBS requests and the government decides.[41] The next Census to be held was postponed from 2006 to late 2008/early 2009.[41] Only the detailed survey of 20% will be carried out, as a cost-saving measure.[41]


The census in Italy is carried out by ISTAT every 10 years. The last four were in 1971, 1981, 1991, 2001.


Japan collects census information every five years. The figures show the English translation of the 2005 census form. The form solicits information on name, sex, relationship to head of household, year and month of birth, marital status, nationality, number of members of household, type and nature of dwelling, floor area of dwelling, number of hours worked during the week prior to October 1, employment status, name of employer and type of business, and kind of work.


The first population census after the independence in 1946 was taken in 1952. It did only count the number of people in the households and could therefore be considered only to be a housing census. The first real complete census was taken in 1961. The following censuses have been taken in 1979, 1994 and 2004. The distribution of Palestinians and Jordanians within the population has been a politically sensitive issue since the Six-Day war in 1967.


Census in Kenya was first held in 1948, when Kenya was still a Colony administrated by the British. Since 1969 census has been taken every ten years. The last census to date was in 2009.[42]


Kosovo, administrated by the UN since 1999, declared independence in 2008. Kosovo government is planning a general population census for 2011.[43] The first census was conducted in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in 1921.


The most recent census in Latvia was in 2000. Before that, it was about 6 censuses, most part of these previous censuses was undertaken during Soviet (USSR) control. The census in Latvia is carried out by Centrālā Statistikas Pārvalde (Central Statistical Bureau).


No census has been conducted in Lebanon since 1932.[44] It indicated a population of 861,399 Lebanese.[45] Various estimates of the population have been taken since; in 1956 it was estimated a population of 1,411,416, with 54% Christian and 44% Muslim. Conducting a census since then has been complicated by various conflicts in the 1970s and 1980s.[46]


The foundation of the Republic of Macedonia followed the break up of the former Yugoslav Republic in 1991. The first population and housing census was taken in the summer 1994. The second census was taken in the autumn 2002. Both censuses were observed by international experts due to the sensitive issue regarding the ethnic distribution (Macedonian vs Albanian population).


Population and housing censuses for Mauritius was collected in 1972, 1983, and 2000; although respondents were asked to identify their race/ethnic origin in the 1972 census, this question was dropped from the following censuses because "the government felt that it was a divisive question".[47] The Statistics Act of 2000 directed that all official censuses be conducted by the Central Statistics Office of Mauritius, as well as serve as the central depository for this information.[48]


Population censuses are taken every 10th year in Mexico. The latest have been in 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990 and 2000 (the 12th census). After 1990 the Mexican census has been taken every 5 years.


The first census was taken in 1980. The second in 1997. The third was taken 1-14 August 2007.


The first census in the Netherlands was conducted in 1795, and the last in 1971. A law was produced on April 22, 1879, ordering a census to be conducted every ten years.

The census that was planned for 1981 was postponed and later cancelled. A call for privacy was responsible for the cancellation of any further census since 1991. Censuses are being conducted by the Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek (Netherlands) since 1899. The censuses today are mostly (population, fiscal) register based, combined with surveying.

New Zealand

The census in New Zealand is carried out by Statistics New Zealand (Tatauranga Aotearoa), every five years. The last was on 7 March 2006. For the 2006 Census of New Zealand, respondents could choose to complete their census questionnaire online. See New Zealand Census of Population and Dwellings.


Population censuses are taken every 10th year in Nepal. The latest were in 1981, 1991 and 2001 (the 6th census.)


Population censuses have been taken in Nigeria during colonial time in 1866, 1871, 1896, 1901, 1911, 1921 and 1952. The censuses covered only the southern part of the country except for the 1952 census which was country wide, and the censuses before 1921 were based on administrative estimates rather than on an actual enumeration.

Censuses during the independence were taken 1963, 1973, 1991 and 1993. The results from 1973 were highly disputed. The preliminary results for 2006 indicates a population of 140,000,000. 700,000 enumerators were engaged in this operation.


The two first male censuses was conducted during the 1660s and 1701. Later statistical censuses were held in 1769, 1815, 1835, 1845, and 1855. Norway’s first nominative, complete census was taken in 1801, when Norway still was ruled by the Oldenburg dynasty of Denmark-Norway. The scope of the census followed the de jure principle, so military persons should be included as well as foreigners if they were residents. The 1865, 1875 and 1900 censuses are digitized, and are made searchable on the internet. The census records are made public available when 100 years have passed. Since 1900, a census has been conducted every ten years. (However, the 1940 census was postponed to 1946.) Since 2001 the population census has been combined with the housing statistics.


Censuses have been taken in the Sultanate of Oman in 1993 and 2003.


The first Pakistan Census after the proclamation of independence of Pakistan was conducted in 1951. It was decreed that censuses have to be carried out once in 10 years. The second census was conducted in 1961. However the third one was conducted in 1972 because of war with India. The fourth census was held in 1981.The fifth census was conducted delayed in March 1998. The sixth census of Pakistan is planned in October 2008.[49]


The first census in Peru was carried out in 1836. The eleventh and latest one was the 2007 Census and was carried out by Instituto Nacional de Estadística e Informática in August 2007.


The census of the Philippines is enumerated every 5 years (beginning on 1960, except in 2005 where it was moved to 2007 due to budgetary constraints) and the results are used to allocate Congressional seats (congressional apportionment) and government program funding.

The census is performed by the National Statistics Office. The first official census in the Philippines was carried out by the Spanish government pursuant to a royal decree calling for the counting of persons living as of the midnight of December 31, 1877. The first door-to-door census was conducted in 1903 to fulfill Public Act 467 which was approved by the U.S. Congress in July 1902. The last national census was held in 2007 and the next census is scheduled for 2010. For years between the censuses, the NSO issues estimates made using surveys and statistical models.


The census in Poland is carried out by GUS every circa 10 years. The last one occurred in 2002 between May 21 and June 8. During the national census in 2002 the following censuses were conducted at the same time: National Population and Housing Census and National Agricultural Census.


The first census in Portugal was carried out in 1864. The census in Portugal is carried out by Instituto Nacional de Estatística (INE) every 10 years. The last one occurred in 2001.


The first census in Romania was carried out in 1859. It is now carried out every ten years by the Institutul Naţional de Statistică (INSSE). The last census was in 2002; the next one will be in 2011.[50]


In Russia, the first census of the tax-payers was made in 1722-23 by the order of Peter the Great (only men were counted), and was ordered to be repeated every 20 years. The only complete Russian Empire Census was carried out in 1897. All-Union Population Censuses were carried out in the USSR (which included RSFSR and the other republics) in 1920 (urban only), 1926, 1937, 1939, 1959, 1970, 1979, and 1989. The first post-Soviet Russian Census was carried out in 2002. The next census is tentatively planned for 2010. Currently, the census is the responsibility of the Federal State Statistics Service.

Saudi Arabia

Population censuses have been taken in Saudi Arabia in 1962/63 (incomplete), 1974 (complete but not reliable), 1992 and 2004. An agriculture census was taken in 1999.


The census takes place every 10 years. The last census was in 2002 (although having been planned for 2001), the previous one was in 1991 and the next is planned for 2011.


The first census of modern Slovenia was carried in 1991, after independence had been declared. The Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovenia (Statistični urad Republike Slovenije) conducted the second census in 2002. Further censuses are planned for every 10 years.

South Africa

The first census of South Africa was taken in 1911. Several enumerations have occurred since then,[51] with the most recent two being carried out by Statistics South Africa in 1996 and 2001. The next South African census is planned for 2011.


The census in Spain is carried out by INE every 10 years. Although there has been an old tradition and like for making census in Spain, the oldest ones dating back to the 12th century (by Alfonso VII of the Kingdom of Castile), the first modern census was carried out in 1768 by Conde de Aranda, under the reign of Carlos III. The last four were in 1971, 1981, 1991, and 2001.


Population censuses have been carried out in Sudan in 1955/56, 1973 (national), 1983 (national) and 1993 (only north). A census was conduced in April 2008. Some areas were difficult to measure (e.g. Darfur).


The first population census in Sweden was carried out in 1749. The last population and housing census was carried out in 1990. It is planned to conduct population and housing censuses based on registers in the future.


In Switzerland, the Federal Population Census (German: Eidgenössische Volkszählung, French: Recensement fédéral de la population, Italian: Censimento federale della popolazione, Romansh: Dumbraziun federala dal pievel) has been carried out every 10 years starting in 1850. The census was initiated by Federal Councillor Stefano Franscini, who evaluated the data of the first census all by himself after Parliament failed to provide the necessary funds.[52] The census is now being conducted by the Swiss Federal Statistical Office.

Data being collected include population data (citizenship, place of residence, place of birth, position in household, number of children, religion, languages, education, profession, place of work, etc.), household data (number of individuals living in the household, etc.), accommodation data (surface area, amount of rent paid, etc.) and building data (geocoordinates, time of construction, number of floors, etc.). Participation is compulsory and reached 99.87% of the population in 2000.[53]

Starting in 2010, the census will cease to be conducted through written questionnaires distributed nationwide. Instead, data in existing population registers will be used. That data will be supplemented with a biannual questionnaire sample of 200,000 people as well as regular microcensuses.


The first population census in Syria was taken by the French Mandatory Regime in 1921-22. This is however not considered reliable. Censuses during independence have been taken 1947, 1960 (the first comprehensive demographic investigation), 1970, 1976 (a sample census), 1981, 1994 and 2004.


The first census in Taiwan was conducted in 1905, while Taiwan was under Japanese rule.[54]


The Turkish census is run by the Turkish Statistical Institute. The first census in Turkey was conducted in 1927. After 1935, it took place every 5 years until 1990. Now, the census takes place every 10 years. The last census was in 2000. It can be noted that the census enumeration takes place on one single day in Turkey (in other countries it takes 1–2 weeks). This required some 900,000 enumerators in 2000. The 15th census based on improved geographical information systems is planned for 2010.

A census was taken in the Ottoman Empire 1831-38 by Sultan Mahmud II (1808-1839) as a part of the reform movement Tanzimat. Christian and Jewish men were counted but the female population was excluded.


The first censuses in Uganda were taken 1911, 1921 and 1931. It was done in a rather primitive way. Enumeration unit was 'huts' and not individuals. More scientific censuses were taken 1948 and 1959 where the enumeration unit was persons. The census was however divided into two separate enumerations, one for Africans, and one for the non-African population. The censuses during independence 1969, 1980, 1991 were taken jointly for all races. The censuses 1980 and 1991 included housing information and in addition a larger questionnaire for a sample of the population. However, the questionnaires for the 1980 were lost and only provisional figures are available from this census.

The census in 2002 involved some 50,000 enumerators and supervisors. It covered several topics including: population and housing; agriculture; and Micro- and small Enterprises administered at individual/household level. The Preliminary Results were published two weeks after the enumeration. The Final Results were released in March 2005, while the analytical findings and the district level results were scheduled to be released in the second quarter of 2006.[55]


The first post-Soviet Ukrainian Census was carried out by State Statistics Committee of Ukraine in 2001, twelve years after the last All-Union census in 1989.

United Kingdom

History of censuses in the UK

In the 7th century, Dál Riata (now western Scotland and northern County Antrim in Northern Ireland) was the first territory in what is now the UK to conduct a census, with what was called the "Tradition of the Men of Alba" (Senchus fer n-Alban). The Domesday Book of 1086 in England contained listings of households but its coverage was not complete and its intent was not the same as modern censuses.

Following the influence of Malthus and concerns stemming from his An Essay On The Principle Of Population the UK census as we know it today started in 1801. This was championed by John Rickman who managed the first four up to 1831, partly to ascertain the number of men able to fight in the Napoleonic wars. Rickman's 12 reasons - set out in 1798 and repeated in Parliamentary debates - for conducting a UK census included the following justifications:

  • "the intimate knowledge of any country must form the rational basis of legislation and diplomacy"
  • "an industrious population is the basic power and resource of any nation, and therefore its size needs to be known"
  • "the number of men who were required for conscription to the militia in different areas should reflect the area"s population'
  • "there were defence reasons for wanting to know the number of seamen"
  • "the need to plan the production of corn and thus to know the number of people who had to be fed"
  • "a census would indicate the Government's intention to promote the public good" and
  • "the life insurance industry would be stimulated by the results."

The census has been conducted every ten years since 1801 and most recently in 2001. The first four censuses (1801-1831) were mainly headcounts and contained little personal information.

The 1841 Census, conducted by the General Register Office, was the first to record the names of everyone in a household or institution. However, their relationship to the head of the household was not noted, although sometimes this can be inferred from the occupation shown (e.g. servant). Those under the age of 15 had their proper ages listed, but for those who were older the ages were supposed to be rounded down to the nearest five years, although this rule was not strictly adhered to. Precise birthplaces were not given - at best the birthplace can be narrowed down to the county in which the person was living.

From 1851 onwards the census shows the exact age and relationship to the head of household for each individual; the place of birth was also listed, but with varying degrees of precision. Sometimes those who were born abroad have the annotation B.S. or British Subject.

The censuses are reasonably accurate. However, ages in particular are frequently shown incorrectly, though often the difference is only one year; in general the younger the individual the more accurate the age shown. Birthplaces often vary from one census to the next: a common error is to show the place where the census was taken as the birthplace, but most of the variations in birthplace can be accounted for by changes in geographical scale (for example, the nearest town being shown instead of the precise village, or a city being shown instead of the relevant suburb).

The censuses are also remarkably complete - though inevitably a small percentage of the population was not recorded for one reason or another, and in some cases the records are missing or damaged (notably in 1861). Furthermore, all censuses of Ireland before 1901 have been lost or destroyed.

Because of World War II, there was no census in 1941. However, following the passage into law (on 5 September 1939) of the National Registration Act a population count was carried out on 29 September 1939, which was, in effect, a census.

Censuses in the modern day

The census of England & Wales is undertaken for the government by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) for policy and planning purposes, and statistical information is made available in published reports and on the ONS's website. The General Register Office for Scotland (GROS) conducts its own census, while the census in Northern Ireland is carried out by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA). Public access to the census returns is restricted under the terms of the 100-year rule; the most recent returns made available to researchers are those of the 1911 Census for England and Wales. The Scottish 1911 census will be available in 2011.

The 2001 census was the first year in which the government asked about religion. Perhaps encouraged by a hoax chain letter that started in New Zealand, 390,000 people entered their religion as Jedi (See Jedi census phenomenon.)

All of the British censuses from 1841-1911 have been transcribed and indexed and are available online, although GROS will not be releasing the Scottish 1911 returns until 2011; there is a joint project between the National Archives of Ireland and Library and Archives Canada to digitize the 1901 and 1911 censuses for the whole of Ireland, and it is possible this will be completed by the end of 2007.[citation needed] The next UK census is planned for 2011.[56]

United States

The United States Constitution mandates that a census be taken every ten years in order to apportion the number of members of the United States House of Representatives among the several states. Census statistics are also used in order to apportion federal funding for many social and economic programs.

The first U.S. Census was conducted in 1790 by Federal marshals. Census takers went door to door and recorded the name of the head of the household and the number of people in each household. Slaves were enumerated, but only three out of five were counted for apportionment. American Indians, being neither taxed nor considered during apportionment, were not counted in the census. The first census counted 3.9 million people, less than half the population of New York City in 2000; the 2000 census counted over 281 million people. In 1902, Congress established the Census Bureau as a federal agency.

In recent times, there have been two forms of questionnaire, long and short. The long form and its additional questions about matters such as daily commute times, housing unit factors, etc, has been replaced by the American Community Survey (ACS). Computer algorithms (based on complex sampling rules) determined which form was mailed to a given household, with one in six receiving the long form. This was supplemented by census workers going door to door to talk to those who failed to return the forms. In addition to a simple count of residents, the Census Bureau collects a variety of statistics, on topics ranging from ethnicity to the presence of indoor plumbing. While some critics claim that census questions are an invasion of privacy, the data collected by every question is either required to enforce some federal law (such as the Voting Rights Act) or to administer some federal program. The United States Congress gives approval to every question asked on the census.

Despite a massive effort, the Census Bureau has never been able to count every individual, leading to controversy about whether to use statistical methods to supplement the numbers for some purposes, as well as arguments over how to improve the actual head count. The Supreme Court ruled that only an actual head count can be used to apportion Congressional seats; however, cities and minority representatives have complained that urban residents and minorities are undercounted. In several cases, the Census Bureau has recounted an area with disputed figures, provided the local government paid for the time and effort. The state of Utah protested the figures of the 2000 decennial census because it stood to gain a seat in the House of Representatives, but North Carolina gained it instead. Had the Census Bureau been mandated to count the numbers of Utahns living overseas, including many Mormon missionaries, Utah might have gained the seat.[57]

To minimize the burden on individuals and to provide improved data, the Bureau has prepared several alternate methods for gathering economic, demographic, and social information, including the American Community Survey and record linking of depersonalized administrative records with other administrative records and Census Bureau surveys.

By law (92 Stat. 915, Public Law 95-416, enacted on October 5, 1978), individual census records are sealed for 72 years.[58] This figure has remained unchanged since before the 1978 law, reflecting an era when life expectancy was under 60 years, and thus attempts to protect individuals' privacy by prohibiting the release of personal information during individuals' lifetimes. The individual census data most recently released to the public was the 1930 census, released in 2002. Aggregate census data are released when available.


In addition to the decennial federal census, local censuses have also been conducted, for example, in Massachusetts, which conducted a statewide census every five years until 1985. Additionally, each community in Massachusetts takes a municipal census each year. Some states conducted limited censuses for various purposes, and these are typically located in state archives.

See also


  1. ^ Shepard, Jon; Robert W. Greene (2003). Sociology and You. Ohio: Glencoe McGraw-Hill. pp. A-22. ISBN 0078285763. http://www.glencoe.com/catalog/index.php/program?c=1675&s=21309&p=4213&parent=4526. 
  2. ^ Sullivan, Arthur; Steven M. Sheffrin (2003). Economics: Principles in action. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey 07458: Pearson Prentice Hall. p. 334. ISBN 0-13-063085-3. http://www.pearsonschool.com/index.cfm?locator=PSZ3R9&PMDbSiteId=2781&PMDbSolutionId=6724&PMDbCategoryId=&PMDbProgramId=12881&level=4. 
  3. ^ The Census and Privacy.
  4. ^ Managing Confidentiality and Learning about SEIFA
  5. ^ "History of China. (Japanese Wikipedia)". http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E4%B8%AD%E5%9B%BD%E3%81%AE%E6%AD%B4%E5%8F%B2. 
  6. ^ "Census - The Canadian Encyclopedia". Statistics Canada. http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0020060. "The first recorded census took place over 4000 years ago in China." 
  7. ^ Jeffrey Hays. "China - Facts and Details: Han Dynasty (206 B.C. - A.D. 220)". http://factsanddetails.com/china.php?itemid=39&catid=2&subcatid=2. 
  8. ^ Twitchett, D., Loewe, M., and Fairbank, J.K. Cambridge History of China: The Ch'in and Han Empires 221 B.C.-A.D. 220. Cambridge University Press (1986), p. 240.
  9. ^ ibid.
  10. ^ Nishijima (1986), 595–596.
  11. ^ "History of China. (Japanese Wikipedia)". http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E4%B8%AD%E5%9B%BD%E3%81%AE%E6%AD%B4%E5%8F%B2. 
  12. ^ H. Yoon (1985). "An early Chinese idea of a dynamic environmental cycle", GeoJournal 10 (2), pp. 211-212.
  13. ^ Kuhrt, A. (1995) The Ancient Near East c. 3000–330BC Vol 2 Routledge, London. p. 695.
  14. ^ Indian Census.
  15. ^ Scheidel, Walter. Rome and China: comparative perspectives on ancient world empires. Oxford University Press (2009), p. 28.
  16. ^ al-Qādī1, Wadād (July 2008), "Population Census and Land Surveys under the Umayyads (41–132/661–750)", Der Islam 83 (2): 341–416, doi:10.1515/ISLAM.2006.015 
  17. ^ UNFPA Projects in Afghanistan.
  18. ^ Albania: 2001 census, official web site. Retrieved on 19 June 2009
  19. ^ Albania: 2001 census, individual questionnaire used by enumerators. Retrieved on 19 June 2009
  20. ^ Municipal Government Act (MGA)
  21. ^ Determination of Population Regulation
  22. ^ Ministry of Municipal Affairs
  23. ^ Official Population List
  24. ^ http://www.stats.gov.cn/tjgb/rkpcgb/index.htm
  25. ^ http://www.gov.cn/zwgk/2009-05/06/content_1306165.htm
  26. ^ http://www.stats.gov.cn/tjdt/gjtjjdt/t20091221_402608717.htm
  27. ^ http://www.stats.gov.cn/was40/gjtjj_en_detail.jsp?channelid=4920&record=1
  28. ^ Census 1769.
  29. ^ Statbank Denmark
  30. ^ Dansk Demografisk Database
  31. ^ Arkivalier Online
  32. ^ Censuses in Estonia.
  33. ^ Statistics Estonia
  34. ^ Γενικη Γραμματεια Εσυε.
  35. ^ "CSO Census Home Page". http://www.cso.ie/census/default.htm. Retrieved 2008-10-09. 
  36. ^ "Census: Historical perspective". CSO. http://www.irisheu-silc.net/census/Historical_Perspective.htm. Retrieved 2008-10-09. 
  37. ^ "Census 2002 Results". CSO. 2002. http://www.cso.ie/census/Commentary.htm. Retrieved 2008-10-09. "The census originally planned for 29 April 2001 was postponed because of the Foot and Mouth disease situation pertaining at the time." 
  38. ^ "Census 2006: Preliminary Report" (PDF). CSO. July 2006. http://www.cso.ie/census/documents/2006PreliminaryReport.pdf. Retrieved 2008-10-09. 
  39. ^ a b "Access to old records". CSO. http://www.cso.ie/census/Access_to_Records.htm. Retrieved 2008-10-09. 
  40. ^ "Census of Ireland, Dublin 1911". National Archives of Ireland. http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/. Retrieved 2008-10-09. 
  41. ^ a b c d e f Kamen, Charles S. (February, 2005). "The 2008 Israel Integrated Census of Population and Housing: Basic conception and procedure" (PDF). Israel Central Bureau of Statistics. p. 1. http://www.cbs.gov.il/mifkad/census2008_e.pdf. Retrieved 2008-10-12. 
  42. ^ Census kicks off. Kenya Broadcasting Corporation. August 24, 2009.
  43. ^ Republic of Kosovo sets the date for its first census
  44. ^ al-Issawi, Omar (June 4, 2009). Lebanon's Palestinian refugees. Al Jazeera.
  45. ^ Rolland, John C. (2003). Lebanon: current issues and background." Nova Publishers. p. 65.
  46. ^ Lebanon. Country studies.
  47. ^ "2010 Round of Censuses: Learning from the 2000 Round Country position: Mauritius February 2006" (accessed 3 April 2009).
  48. ^ "Central Statistics Office: The Statistics Act 2000".
  49. ^ Pakistan Census process to begin in October, 2008.
  50. ^ The next census will take place in 2011.
  51. ^ South Africa - Population.
  52. ^ History of the Federal Population Census, Swiss Federal Statistical Office, accessed October 2007.
  53. ^ Overview of the Federal Population Census, Swiss Federal Statistical Office, accessed October 2007.
  54. ^ The Modernization of Taiwan.
  55. ^ "Country submission for Uganda: The 2010 World Programme on Population and Housing Censuses", Africa Symposium on the 2010 Round of Population and Housing Censuses (Cape Town, South Africa, 30 January - 2 February 2006 (accessed 3 April 2009).
  56. ^ National Statistics Website.
  57. ^ Justices Deal Utah a Setback In Its Bid to Gain a House Seat.
  58. ^ U.S. Census Bureau | History | Legislation 1974 - 1983.


External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

CENSUS (from Lat. censere, to estimate or assess; connected by some with centum, i.e. a count by hundreds), a term used to denote a periodical enumeration restricted, in modern times, to population, and occasionally to industries and agricultural resources, but formerly extending to property of all kinds, for the purpose of assessment.

Operations of this character have been conducted with different objects from very ancient times. The fighting strength of the children of Israel at the Exodus was ascertained by a count of all males of twenty years old and upwards, made by enumerators appointed for each clan. The Levites, who were exempted from military duties, were separately enumerated from the age of thirty upwards, and a similar process was ordained subsequently by Solomon, in order to distribute amongst them the functions assigned to the priestly body in connexion with the temple. The census unwillingly carried out by Joab at the behest of David related exclusively to the fighting men of the community, and the dire consequences ascribed to it were quoted in reprobation of such inquiries as late as the middle of the 18th century. It appears, too, that a register of the population of each clan was kept during the Babylonian captivity and its totals were published on their return to Jerusalem. In the Persian empire there was apparently some method in force by which the resources of each province were ascertained for the purpose of fixing the tribute. In China, moreover, an enumeration of somewhat the same nature was an ancient institution in connexion with the provincial revenues and military liabilities. In Egypt, Amasis had the occupation of each individual annually registered, nominally to aid the official supervision of morals by discouraging disreputable means of subsistence; and this ordinance, according to Herodotus, was introduced by Solon into the Athenian scheme of administration, where it developed later into an electoral record.

It was in Rome, however, that the system from which the name of the inquiry is derived was first established upon a regular footing. The original census was ascribed to Servius Tullius, and in the constitution which goes by his name it was decreed that every fifth year the population should be enumerated along with the property of each family - land, live-stock, slaves and freedmen. The main object was to ensure the accurate division of the people into the six main classes and their respective centuries, which were based upon considerations of combined numbers and wealth. With the increase of the city the operation grew in importance, and was followed by an official lustruni, or purificatory sacrifice, offered on behalf of the people by the censors or functionaries in charge of the classification. Hence the name of lustrum came to denote the intercensal term, or a period of five years. The word census, too, came to mean the property qualification of the class, as well as the process of registering the resources of the individual. Later, it was used in the sense of the imposition itself, in which it has survived in the contracted form of cess. Unfortunately the statistics of population thus collected were subordinated to the fiscal interests of the inquiry, and no record has been handed down relating to the population of the city and its neighbourhood. In the time of Augustus the census was extended to the whole empire. In the words of the Gospel of St Luke, he ordered "the whole world to be taxed," or, according to the revised version, to be enrolled. The compilation of the results of this the most comprehensive enumeration till then attempted was engaging the attention of the emperor, it is said, just before his death, but was never completed. The various inquiries instituted during the middle ages, such as the Domesday Book and the Breviary of Charlemagne, were so far on the Roman model that they took little or no account of the population, the feudal system probably rendering information regarding it unnecessary for the purposes of taxation or military service.

The foundations of the census on the modern system were laid in Europe towards the middle or end of the 17th century. Sweden led the way, by making compulsory the parish record of births, deaths and marriages, kept by the clergy, and extending it to include the whole of the domiciled population of the parish. In France, Colbert, in 1670, ordered the extension to the rural communes of the system which had for many years been in force in Paris of registering and periodically publishing the domestic occurrences of the locality. Five years before this, however, a periodical enumeration by families and individuals had been established in the colony of New France, and was continued in Quebec from 1665 till 1754. This, therefore, may be considered to be the earliest of modern censuses.

Efforts have been almost unceasingly made since 1872 by statistical experts in periodical conference to bring about a general understanding, first, as to the subjects which may be considered most likely to be ascertained with approximate accuracy at a census, and secondly - a point of scarcely less importance - as to the form in which the results of the inquiry should be compiled in order to render comparison possible between the facts recorded in the different areas. In regard to the scope of the inquiry, it is recognized that much is practicable in a country where the agency of trained officials is employed throughout the operation which cannot be expected to be adequately recorded where the responsibility for the correctness of the replies is thrown upon the householder. The standard set up by eminent statisticians, therefore, may be taken to represent an ideal, not likely to be attained anywhere under present conditions, but towards which each successive census may be expected to advance. The subjects to which most importance is attached from the international standpoint are age, sex, civil condition, birthplace, illiteracy and certain infirmities. Occupation, too, should be included, but the record of so detailed a subject is usually considered to be better obtained by a special inquiry, rather than by the rough and ready methods of a synchronous enumeration. This course has been adopted in Germany, Belgium and France, and an approach to it is made in the decennial census of Canada and the United States. Religious denomination, another of the general subjects suggested, is of considerably more importance in some countries than in others, and the same may be said of nationality, which is often usefully supplemented by the return of mother-tongue. Nor should it be forgotten that the internal classification and the combinations of the above subjects are also matters to be treated upon some uniform plan, if the full value of the statistics is to be extracted from the raw material. On the whole, the progress towards a general understanding on many, if not most, of the questions here mentioned which has been made in the present generation, is a gratifying tribute to those who have long laboured in the cause of efficient enumeration.

THE British Empire England and Wales. - Up to the beginning of the 19th century the number of the population was a matter of estimate and conjecture. In 1753 a bill was introduced by a private member of the House of Commons, backed by official support, to provide for the annual enumeration of the people and of the persons in receipt of parochial relief. It was violently opposed as "subversive of the last remains of English liberty" and as likely to result in "some public misfortune or an epidemical distemper." After passing that House, however, the bill was thrown out by the House of Lords. The fear of disclosing to the enemies of England the weakness of the country in fighting-material was one of the main objections offered to the proposal. By the end of the century, however, owing to a great extent to the publication of the essays of Malthus, the pendulum had swung far in the opposite direction, it was thought desirable to possess the means of judging from time to time the relations between an increasing population and the means of subsistence. A census bill, accordingly, again brought in by a private member, became law without opposition at the end of 1800, and the first enumeration under it took place in March of the following year, the operations being confined to Great Britain. The inquiry was entrusted in England to the overseers, acting under the justices of the peace and the high constables, and in Scotland, to village schoolmasters, under the sheriffs. A supplementary statement of births, deaths and marriages for each parish was required from the clergy, who transmitted it to parliament through the bishops and primates successively. There was no central office or control. The schedule required the number of houses, inhabited and otherwise, the population of each family, by sex, and the occupation, under one of the three heads, (a) agriculture, (b) trade, manufacture or industry, or (c) other than these two. The results, which were not satisfactory, were published without comment' Ten years later, the chief alteration in the inquiry was the substitution of the main occupation of the family for that of the individual. The report on this census contained a very valuable exposition of the difficulties involved in such operations and the numerous sources of error latent in an apparently simple set of questions. In 1821 an attempt to get a return of ages was made, but it was not repeated in 1831, when the attention of the enumerators was concentrated upon greater detail in the occupation record. Their efforts were successful in getting a better, but still far from complete result. The creation, in 1834, of poor law unions, and the establishment, in 1836, of civil registration districts, as a rule coterminous with them, provided a new basis for the taking of a census, and the operations in 1841 were made over accordingly to the supervision of the registrar-general and his staff. The inquiry was extended to the sex, age and occupation of every individual; those born in the district were distinguished from others, foreigners being also separately returned. The number of houses inhabited, uninhabited and under construction respectively, was noted in the return. The parish statement of births, deaths and marriages was sent up by the clergy for the last time. The most important innovation, however, was the transfer of the responsibility for filling up the schedule from the overseers to the householders, thereby rendering possible a synchronous record.

With some modification in detail, the system then inaugurated has been since maintained. In 1851 the relationship to the head of the family, civil condition, and the blind and deafmute were included in the inquiry. On this occasion, the act providing for the census was interpreted to authorize the collection of details regarding accommodation in places of public worship and the attendance thereat, as well as corresponding information about educational establishments. A separate report was published on the former subject which proved something of a storm centre. The census of 1871 obtained for the first time a return of persons of unsound mind not confined in asylums. During the next ten years, the separate areas for which population returns had to be prepared were seriously multiplied by the creation of sanitary districts, to the number of 966. The necessity, for administrative or other purposes, of tabulating separately the returns for so many cross-divisions of the country constitutes one of the main difficulties of the English census operations, more particularly as the boundaries of these areas are frequently altered. In anticipation of the census of 1891, a treasury committee was appointed to consider the various suggestions made in regard to the form and scope of the inquiry. Its proposals were adopted as to the subdivision of the occupation column into employer, employed and independent worker, and as to the record upon the schedule of the number of rooms occupied by the family, where not more than five. Separate entry was also made of the persons living upon property or resources, but not following any occupation. No action was taken, however, upon the more important recommendation that midway between two censuses a simple enumeration by sex and age should be effected. A return was also prepared in 1891, for Wales, of those who could speak only Welsh, only English, and both languages, but, owing to the inclusion of infants, the results were of little value. In 1901 the same information was called for, excluding all under three years of age. The term tenement, too, was substituted for that of storey, as the subdivision of a house, whilst in addition to inhabited and uninhabited houses, those occupied by day, but not by night, were separately recorded. The nationality of those born abroad, which used to be returned only for British subjects, was called for from all not born within the kingdom.

Table of contents


In the acts relating to the census from 1801 to 1851, provision for the enumeration of Scotland was made with that for England and Wales, allowance being made for the differences in procedure, which mainly concerned the agency to be employed. In 1855, however, civil registration of births and deaths was established in Scotland, and the conduct of the census of 1861 was, by a separate act, entrusted to the registrar general of tfiat country. The same course was followed at the three succeeding enumerations, but in 1901 the former practice was resumed. The complexity of administrative areas, though far less than in England, was simplified, and the census compilation proportionately facilitated, by the passing of the Local Government Act for Scotland, in 1889. In 1881, the definition of a house in Scotland was made identical with that in England, since previously what was called a house in the northern portion of Great Britain was known as a tenement in the south, and vice versa. Since 1861 a return has been called for in Scotland of the number of rooms with one or more windows, and that of children of school-age under instruction is also included in the inquiry. The number of persons speaking Gaelic was recorded for the first time in 1881. The question was somewhat expanded at the next census, and in 1901 was brought into harmony with the similar inquiry as to Welsh and Manx.


An estimate of the population of Ireland was made as early as 1672, by Sir W. Petty, and another in 1712, in connexion with the hearth-money, but the first attempt to take a regular census was made in 1811, through the Grand Juries. It was not successful, and in 1821 again, the inquiry was considered to be but little more satisfactory. The census of 1831 was better, but the results were considered exaggerated, owing to the system of paying enumerators according to the numbers they returned. The census, therefore, was supplemented by a revisional inquiry three years afterwards, in order to get a good basis for the newly introduced system of public instruction. The completion of the ordnance survey and the establishment of an educated constabulary force brought the operations of 1841 up to the level of those of the sister kingdom. The main difference in procedure between the two inquiries is that in Ireland the schedule is filled in by the enumerator, a member of the constabulary, or, in Dublin, of the metropolitan police, instead of being left to the householder. The tabulation of the returns, again, is carried out at the central office from the original schedule, and not, as in England, from the book into which the former has been copied by the enumerating agency. The inquiry in Ireland is more extensive than that in Great Britain. It includes, for instance, a considerable amount of information regarding holdings and stock. The details of house accommodation are fuller. A column is provided for the degree of education, and another for religious denomination, an addition which has always been successfully resisted in England. This last information was made voluntary in 1881 and the following enumerations without materially affecting the extent of the record. The inquiry as to infirmities, too, is made to extend to those temporarily incapacitated from work, whether at home or in a hospital. There is also a column for the entry of persons speaking the Irish language only or able to speak both that and English. In the report of 1901 for England and Wales (p. 170) a table is given showing, for the three divisions of the United Kingdom, the relative number of persons speaking the ancient languages either exclusively or in addition to English.

British Colonies and Dependencies

A simultaneous and uniform census of the British empire is an ideal which appeals to many, but its practical advantages are by no means commensurate with the difficulties to be surmounted.. Scattered as are the colonies and dependencies over the world, the date found most suitable for the inquiry in the mother country and the temperate regions of the north is the opposite in the tropics and inconvenient at the antipodes. Then, again, as to the scope of the inquiry, the administrative purposes for which information is thus collected vary greatly in the different countries, and the inquiry, too, has to be limited to what the conditions of the locality allow, and the population dealt with is likely to be able and willing to answer. By prearrangement, no doubt, uniformity may be obtained in regard to most of the main statistical facts ascertainable at a census, at all events in the more advanced units of the empire, and proposals to this effect were made by the registrar-general of England and Wales in his report upon the figures for 1901. Previous to that date, the only step towards compilation of the census results of the empire had been a bare statement of area and population, appended without analysis, comparison or comment, to the reports for England and Wales, from the year 1861 onwards. In 1905, however, the returns published in the colonial reports were combined with those of the United Kingdom, and the subjects of house-room, sex, age, civil condition, birthplace, occupation, and, where available, instruction, religion and infirmities, were reviewed as fully as the want of uniformity in the material permitted (Command paper, 2860, 1906). The measures taken by the principal states, colonies and dependencies for the periodical enumeration of their population are set forth below.


The first enumeration of what was afterwards called Lower Canada, took place, as above stated, in 1665, and dealt with the legal, or domiciled, population, not with that actually present at the time of the census, a practice still maintained, in contrast to that prevailing in the rest of the empire. The record was by families, and included the sex, age and civil condition of each individual, with a partial return of profession or trade. Later on, the last item was abandoned in favour of a fuller return of agricultural resources, a feature which has remained a prominent part of the inquiry. After the British occupation, a census was taken in 1765 and 1784, and annually from 1824 to 1842, the information asked for differing from time to time. Enumerations were conducted independently by the different states until 1871, when the first federal census was taken of the older parts of the Dominion. Since then, the enumeration has been decennial, except in the case of the more recently colonized territories of Manitoba and the North-West, where an intermediate census was found necessary in 1885-1886. The census of Canada is organized on the plan adopted in the United States rather than in accordance with British practice, and includes much which is the subject of annual returns in the latter country, or is not officially collected at all. The details of deaths in the year preceding the census, for instance, are called for, there being no registration of such occurrences in the rural tracts. In consideration of the large immigrant population again, the birthplace of each parent is recorded, with details as to nationality, naturalization and date of immigration. Occupation is dealt with minutely, in conjunction with temporary unemployment, average wage or salary earned, and other particulars. No less than eleven schedules are employed, most of them relating to details of industries and production. The duty of filling up so comprehensive a return, involving an answer to 561 questions, is not left to the householder, but entrusted to enumerators specially engaged, working under the supervision of the Department of Agriculture. Owing to the sparse population and difficulties of communication in a great part of the dominion, the inquiry, though referred to a single date, is not completed on that day, a month being allowed to the enumerator for the collection of his returns and their revision and transmission to the central office. A special feature in the operations is the provision, necessitated by the record of the legal population, for the inclusion in the local return of the persons temporarily absent on the date of the census, and their adjustment in the general aggregates, a matter to which considerable attention is paid. The very large mass of detail collected at these inquiries entails an unusually long time spent in compilation; the statistics of population, accordingly, are available considerably in advance of those relating to production and industries.


As the sphere of the census operations in Canada has been gradually spreading from the small beginnings on the east coast to the immense territories of the north-west, so, in the island continent, colonization, first concentrated in the south-east, has extended along the coasts and thence into the interior, except in the northern region. The first act of effective occupation of the country having been the establishment of a penal settlement, the only population to be dealt with in the earlier years of British administration was that under restraint, with its guardians and a few scattered immigrants in the immediate neighbourhood of Sydney Cove. This was enumerated from 1788 onwards by official "musters," at first weekly, and afterwards at lengthening intervals. The record was so inaccurate that it had no statistical value until 1820, when the muster was taken after due preparation and with greater care, approximating to the system of a regular census. The first operation, however, called by the latter name, was the enumeration of 1828, when an act was passed providing for the enumeration of the whole population, the occupied area and the live-stock. The details of population included sex, children and adults respectively, religion and status, that is whether free (immigrants or liberated convicts), on ticket-of-leave, or under restraint. A similar inquiry was made in 1833 and again in 1836. In 1841 a separate census was taken of New Zealand and Tasmania respectively. The scope of the inquiry in New South Wales was somewhat extended and made to include occupations other than agriculture and stock-breeding. Five years later, the increase of the population justified the further addition of particulars regarding birthplace and education. The record of status, too, was made optional, and in 1856 was omitted from the schedule. In that year, moreover, Victoria, which had become a separate colony, took its own census. South Australia, too, was enumerated in 1846, ten years after its foundation as a colony. From 1861 the census has been taken decennially by all the states except Queensland, where, as in New Zealand, it has been quinquennial since 1875 and 1881 respectively. Up to and including the census of 1901 each state conducted separately its own inquiries. The scheme of enumeration is based on that of Great Britain, modified to suit the conditions of a thin and widely scattered population. The schedules are distributed by enumerators acting under district supervisors; but it is found impossible to collect the whole number in a single day, nor does the mobility of the population in the rural tracts make such expedition necessary. In more than one state the police are employed as enumerators, but elsewhere, a staff has to be specially recruited for the purpose. The operations were improved and facilitated by means of an interstatal conference held before the census of 1891, at which a standard schedule was adopted and a series of general tables agreed upon, to be supplemented in greater detail according to the requirements of each state. The standard schedule, in addition to the leading facts of sex, age, civil condition, birthplace, occupation and house-room, includes education and sickness as well as infirmities, and leaves the return of religious denomination optional with the householder. Under the head of occupation, the bread-winner is distinguished from his dependants and is returned as employer, employed, or working on his own account, as is now the usual practice in census-taking. Each state issues its own report, in which the returns are worked up in the detail required for both local administrative purposes, and for comparison with the corresponding returns for the neighbouring territory. The reports for New South Wales and Victoria are especially valuable in their statistical aspect from the analysis they contain of the vital conditions of a comparatively young community under modern conditions of progress.

South Africa

Almost from the date of their taking possession of the Cape of Good Hope and its vicinity, the Netherlands East Indian Company instituted annual returns of population, livestock and agricultural produce. The results from 1687 for nearly a century were recorded, but do not appear to have been more accurate than those subsequently obtained on the same method by the British government, by whom they were discontinued in 1856. The information was collected by district officials, unguided by any general instructions as to form or procedure. The first synchronous census of the colony, as it was then constituted, took place in 1865, on a fairly comprehensive schedule. Ten years later the inquiry was extended to religion and civil condition, and for the census of 1891, again, a rather more elaborate schedule was used. The next census was deferred till 1904, in consequence of the disorganization produced by the Boer war. The inquiry was on the same lines as its predecessors, with a little more detail as to industries and religious denomination. Speaking generally, the administration of the operations is conducted upon the Australian plan, with special attention to allaying the distrust of the native and more ignorant classes, for which purpose the influence of the clergy was enlisted. In some tracts it was found advisable to substitute a less elaborate schedule for that generally prescribed. In Natal, indeed, where the first independent census was taken in 1891, the Kaffir population was not on that occasion enumerated at all. In 1904, however, they were counted on a very simple schedule, by sex and by large age-groups up to 40 years old, with a return of birthplace, in a form affording a fair indication of race. Natives of India, an element of considerable extent and importance in this colony, are enumerated apart from the white population, but in full detail, recognizing the remarkable difference between the European and the Oriental in the matter of age distribution and civil condition. The Transvaal and the Orange River colonies were enumerated in 1904. In the latter, a census had been taken in 1890, in considerable detail, but that of the Transvaal, in 1896, seems to have been far from complete or accurate even in regard to the white population. In Southern Rhodesia the white residents were enumerated in 1891, but it was not until 1904 that the whole population was included in the census. The difficulty in all these cases is that of procuring a sufficient quantity of efficient agency, especially where a large and illiterate native population has to be taken into account. For this reason, amongst others, no census had been taken up to 1906 of Northern Rhodesia, the British possessions and protectorates of eastern Africa, or, again, of Nigeria and the protectorates attached to the West African colonies of Gambia, Sierra Leone and Lagos.

The West Indies

Each of the small administrative groups here included takes its census independently of the rest, though since 1871 all take it about the date fixed for that of the United Kingdom. The information required differs in each group, but the schedule is, as a rule, of a simple character, and the results of the inquiry are usually set forth with comparatively little comment or analysis. In some of the groups distinctions of colour are returned in general terms; in others, not at all. On the other hand, considerable detail is included regarding the indentured labourers recruited from India, and those of this class who are permanently settled on the land in Guiana and Trinidad. No census was taken in the former, or in Jamaica and Barbados, in 1901.


Here the census is taken decennially, on the same date as in India, in consideration of the constant stream of migration between the two countries. The schedule is much the same as in India with the substitution of race for caste. Until 1901, however, it was not filled in by the enumerator, as in India, but was distributed before and collected after the appointed date as in Great Britain.


The population of India is the largest aggregate yet brought within the scope of a synchronous and uniform enumeration. It amounts to three-fourths of that of the British Empire, and but little less than a fifth of the estimated population of the world. Between 1853 and 1881 each province conducted its own census operations independently, with little or no attempt at uniformity in date, schedule or tabulation. In the latter year the operations were placed for the first time under central administration, and thelike procedure wasadoptedin 1891 and 1901,with such modification of detail as was suggested by the experience of the preceding census. On each occasion new areas had to be brought within the sphere of enumeration, whilst the necessity for the use in the wilder tracts of a schedule simpler in its demands than the standard, grew less as the country got more accustomed to the inquiry, and the efficiency of the administrative agency increased. Not more than 5% of the householders in India can read and write, and the proportion capable of fully understanding the schedule and of making the entries in it correctly is still lower. From the literate minority, therefore, agency has to be drawn in sufficient strength to take down every particle of the information dictated by the heads of families. As it would be impossible for an enumerator to get through this task in the course of the census night for more than a comparatively small number of houses, the operation is divided into two processes. First a preliminary record is made a short time before the night in question, of the persons ordinarily residing in each house.

Then, on that night, the enumerator, reinforced if necessary by aid drafted from outside, revisits his beat, and brings the record up to date by striking out the absent and entering the new arrivals. The average extent of each beat is arranged to include about 300 persons. Thus, in 1901, not far from a million men were required for enumeration alone. To this army must be added the controlling agency, of at least a tenth of the above number, charged with the instruction of their subordinates, the inspection and correction of the preliminary record, and the transmission of the schedule books to the local centre after the census has been taken. The supply of agency for these duties is, fortunately, not deficient. Irrespective of the large number of clerks, village scribes and state and municipal employes which can be drawn upon with but slight interruption of official routine, there is a fair supply of casual literary labour up to the moderate standard required. The services, too, of the educated public are often voluntarily placed at the disposal of the local authorities for the census night, with' no desire for remuneration beyond out-of-pocket expenses, and the addition, perhaps, of a personal letter of thanks from the chief official of the district. By means of a well-organized chain of tabulating centres, the preliminary totals, by sexes, of the 294 millions enumerated in 1901 were given to the public within a fortnight of the census, and differed from the final results by no more than 94,000, or 03%. The schedule adopted contains in addition to the standard subjects of sex, age, civil condition, birthplace, occupation and infirmities, columns for mother-tongue, religion and sect, and caste and sub-caste. It is printed in about 20 languages. The results for each province or large state are tabulated locally, by districts or linguistic divisions. The final compilation is done by a provincial superintendent, who prepares his own report upon the operations and results. This work has usually an interest not found in corresponding reports elsewhere, in the prominent place necessarily occupied iii it by the ethnographical variety of the population.

Foreign Countries Inquiries by local officials in connexion with measures of taxation, such as the hearth-tax in France, were instituted in continental Europe as early as the ,4th century; but as the basis of an estimate of population they were intrinsically untrustworthy. Going outside Europe, an extreme instance of the results of combining a census with more definite administrative objects may be found in the census of China in 1711, when the population enumerated in connexion with a poll-tax and liability to military service, was returned as 28 millions; but forty years later, when the question was that of the measures for the relief of widespread distress, the corresponding total rose to 103 millions! The notion of obtaining a periodical record of population and its movement, dissociated from fiscal or other liabilities, originated, as stated above, in Sweden, where, in 1686, the birth and death registers, till then kept voluntarily by the parish clergy, were made compulsory and general, the results for each year being communicated to a central office. A census, as a special undertaking, was not, however, carried out in that country until 1749. The example of Sweden was followed in the next year by Finland, and twenty years later, by Norway, where the parish register was an existing institution, as in the neighbouring state. Several other countries followed suit in the course of the 18th century, though the results were either partial or inaccurate. Amongst them was Spain, though here a trustworthy census was not obtained until 1857, or perhaps 1887. Some of the small states of Italy, too, recorded their population in the middle of the above century, but the first general census of that country took place in 1861, after its unification. In Austria, a census was taken in 1754 by the parish clergy, concurrently with the civil authorities and the military commandants. Hungary was in part enumerated thirty years later. The starting-point of the modern census, however, in either part of the dual monarchy, was not until 1857. Speaking generally, most of the principal countries began the current series of their censuses between 1825 and 1860. The German empire has taken its census quinquennially since its foundation, but long before 1871 a. census at short intervals used to be taken in all the states of the Zollverein, for the purpose of ascertaining the contribution to the federal revenue, the amount of which was revisable every three years. The last great country to enter the census field was Russia. From 1721, what are known as revisions of the population were periodically carried out, for military, fiscal and police purposes; but these were conducted by local officials, without central direction or systematic organization. In 1897 a general census was taken as synchronously throughout the empire as was found possible. It embraced a population second to that of India alone, as China, probably the most populous country in the world, has not yet been subjected to this test. The inquiry was made in great detail, under central control, and on a plan sufficiently elastic to suit the requirements of so varied a country and population. As in India, the schedules had to be issued in an unusual number of languages, and were dealt with locally in the earlier stages of tabulation. The principal regions of which the population is still a matter of mere conjecture are the Turkish empire, Persia, Afghanistan, China and the Indo-Chinese peninsula, in Asia, nearly nine-tenths of Africa, and a considerable portion of South America. (J. A. B.) United States Modern census-taking seems to have originated in the United States. Professor von Mayr declares in a recent and authoritative work, "It was no European state, but the United States of America that made a beginning of census-taking in the large and true sense of that word," and Professor H. Wagner, writing of the censuses of Sweden, said to have been taken in the 18th century, uses these words, "Since 1749 careful parish registers have been kept by the clergy and have in general the value of censuses." The same authority, although mentioning a reported census of Norway in 1769, indicates his conviction that the first real census of that country was in 1815. Sweden, Norway and the United States are the only countries with any claim to have taken the first modern census, as distinguished from a register of tax-payers, &c., the lineal descendant of the old Roman census, and the innovation seems to be due to the United States. If so, the first modern census was the American census of 1790. At. the present date more than three-fifths of the estimated population of the world has been enumerated in this way. It is of interest accordingly to note how and why the device originated.

The Federal census, which began in 1790 and has been taken every ten years since under a mandate contained in the Constitution of the United States, was the outgrowth of a controversy in the convention which prepared the document. Representatives of the smaller states as a rule claimed that the vote, and so the influence, of the states in the proposed government should be equal. Representatives of the larger states as a rule claimed that their greater population and wealth were entitled to recognition. The controversy ended in the creation of a bicameral legislature in the lower branch of which the claim of the larger states found recognition, while in the upper, the Senate, each state had two votes. In the House of Representatives seats were to be distributed in proportion to the population, and the convention, foreseeing rapid changes of population, ordained an enumeration of the inhabitants and a redistribution or reapportionment of seats in the House of Representatives every ten years.

The provision of the Constitution on the subject is as follows:- "Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included within this Union according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years and excluding Indians not taxed, three-fifths of all other persons. The actual enumeration shall be made within three years after the first meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent term of ten years, in such manner as they shall by law direct." In 1790 the population was reported classed as slaves and free, the free classed as white and others, the free whites as males and females, and the free white males as under or above sixteen years of age. In 1800 and 1810 the same classification was preserved, except that five age-groups instead of two were given for free white males and the same five were applied also to free white females. In connexion with the census of 1810 an attempt, perhaps the earliest in any country, was made to gather certain industrial statistics showing "the number, nature, extent, situation and value of the arts and manufactures of the United States." In 1820 a sixth age class was introduced for free white males, an age classification of four periods was applied to the free coloured and the slaves of each sex, and the number of aliens and of persons engaged in agriculture, in manufactures and in commerce was called for. The inquiry into industrial statistics begun in 181o was also repeated and extended.

In 1830 thirteen age classes were employed for free whites of each sex, and six for the free coloured and the slaves of each sex. The number of aliens, of the deaf and dumb and the blind were also gathered.

The law under which the census of 1840 was taken contained a novel provision for the preparation in connexion with the census of statistical tables giving "such information in relation to mines, agriculture, commerce, manufactures and schools as will exhibit a full view of the pursuits, industry, education and resources of the country." This was about the first indication of a tendency, which grew in strength for half a century, to load the Federal census with inquiries having no essential or necessary connexion with its main purpose, which was to secure an accurate enumeration of the population as a basis for a reapportionment of seats in the House of Representatives. This tendency was largely due to a doubt whether the Federal government under the Constitution possessed the power to initiate general statistical inquiries, a doubt well expressed in the 9th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica by Francis A. Walker, himself a prominent member of the party whose contention he states: "The reservation by the states of all rights not granted to the general government makes it fairly a matter of question whether purely statistical inquiries, other than for the single purpose of apportioning representation, could be initiated by any other authority than that of the states themselves. That large party which advocates a strict and jealous construction of the constitution would certainly oppose any independent legislation by the national Congress for providing a registration of births, marriages and deaths, or for obtaining social and industrial statistics, whether for the satisfaction of the publicist or for the guidance of the legislature. Even though the supreme court should decide such legislation to be within the grant of powers to the general government, the distrust and opposition, on constitutional grounds, of so large a portion of the people, could not but go far to defeat the object sought." The difficulty stated in the foregoing quotation, although now mainly of historic importance, exerted great influence upon the development of the American census prior to 1900.

The pioneer work of the census of 1840 in the fields of educational statistics, statistics of occupations, of defective classes and of causes of death, suffered from numerous errors and defects. Public discussion of them contributed to secure radical modifications of scope and method at the census of 1850. Before the census law was passed, a census board, consisting of three members of the president's cabinet, was appointed to draft plans for the inquiry, and the essential features of its report prepared after consultation with a number of leading statisticians were embodied in the law.

The census of 1850 was taken on six schedules, one for free inhabitants, one for slaves, one for deaths during the preceding year, one for agriculture, one for manufactures and one for social statistics. The last asked for returns regarding valuation, taxation, educational and religious statistics, pauperism, crime and the prevailing rates of wages in each municipal division. It was also the first American census to give a line of the schedule to each person, death or establishment enumerated, and thus to make the returns in the individual form indispensable for a detailed classification and compilation. The results of this census were tabulated with care and skill, and a preliminary analysis gave the salient results and in some cases compared them with European figures.

The census of 1860 followed the model of its predecessor with slight changes. When the time for the next census approached it was felt that new legislation was needed, and a committee of the House of Representatives, with James A. Garfield, afterwards president of the United States, at its head, made a careful and thorough study of the situation and reported an excellent bill, which passed the House, but was defeated by untoward influences in the Senate. In consequence the census of 1870 was taken with the outgrown machinery established twenty years earlier, a law characterized by Francis A. Walker, the superintendent of the census, who administered it, as "clumsy, antiquated and barbarous." It suffered also from the fact that large parts of the country had not recovered from the ruin wrought by four years of civil war. In consequence this census marks the lowest ebb of American census work. The accuracy of the results is generally denied by competent experts. The serious errors were errors of omission, were probably confined in the main to the Southern states, and were especially frequent among the negroes.

Since 1870 the development of census work in the United States has been steady and rapid. The law, which had been prepared for the census of 1870 by the House committee, furnished a basis for greatly improved legislation in 1879, under which the tenth census was taken. By this law the census office for the first time was allowed to call into existence and to control an adequate local staff of supervisors and enumerators. The scope of the work was so extended as to make the twenty-two quarto volumes of the tenth census almost an encyclopaedia, not only of the population,but also of theproductsand resources of the United States. Probably no other census in the world has ever covered so wide a range of subjects, and perhaps none except that of India and the eleventh American census has extended through so many volumes. The topics usually contained in a census suffered from the great addition of other and less pertinent matter, and the reputation of the work was unfavourably affected by the length of time required to prepare and publish the volumes (the last ones not appearing until near the end of the decade), the original underestimate of the cost of the work, which made frequent supplementary appropriations necessary, the resignation of the superintendent, Francis A. Walker, in 1882, and the disability and death of his successor, Charles W. Seaton. The eleventh census was taken under a law almost identical with that of the tenth, and extended through twenty-five large volumes, presenting a work almost as encyclopaedic, but much more distinctively statistical.

The popular opinion of a census, at least in the United States, depends largely upon the degree to which its figures for the population of the country, of states, and especially of cities, meet or fail to meet the expectations of the interested public. Judged by this standard, the census of 1890 was less favourably received than that of 1880. The enumerated population of the country in 1880 was larger than had been anticipated; and in the face of these figures it was difficult for local complaints, even where they were made, to find hearing and acceptance. But according to the eleventh census the decennial rate of growth of population fell suddenly from over 30%, which the figures had shown between 1870 and 1880, and in every preceding decade of the century, except that of the Civil War, to less than 25%, in spite of an immigration nearly double that of any preceding decade'. For this change no adequate explanation was offered by the census office. Hence the protests of those who believed that the figures for population were too small swelled into a general chorus of dissatisfaction. But the census was probably more correct than the critics. Most of the motives influencing popular estimates of population in the United States tend to exaggeration. The convention which drafted the Constitution of the United States attempted to secure a balance of interests by apportioning both representatives in Congress and direct taxes according to population. A passage in The Federalist suggests the motives of the convention as follows: "As the accuracy of the census to be obtained by Congress will necessarily depend in a considerable degree on the disposition if not co-operation of the states, it is of great importance that the states should feel as little bias as possible to swell or reduce the amount of their numbers. Were their share of representation alone to be governed by this rule, they would have an interest in exaggerating their inhabitants. Were the rule to decide their share of taxation alone, a contrary temptation would prevail. By extending the rule to both objects the states will have opposite interests, which will control and balance each other, and produce a requisite impartiality." With the disappearance of direct taxation as a source of federal revenue, the motive mentioned for understating the population disappeared. On the other hand, the desire for many representatives in Congress has been reinforced by the more influential feelings of local pride and of rivalry with other cities of somewhat similar size. Hence a complaint that the population is overstated is seldom heard, and hence, also, popular charges of an undercount afford little evidence that the population was really larger than stated by the census.

After the detailed tabulation had been completed, it was shown that the number of persons under ten years of age in 18go was surprisingly small, and that this deficiency in children was a leading cause of the slow growth in population. Before the tabulation had been made Francis A. Walker wrote: "If the birth-rate among the previously existing population did not suffer a sharp decline. .. the census of 1890 cannot be vindicated. To ascertain the facts we must await the tabulation of the population by periods of life, and ascertain how many of the inhabitants of the United States of 7890 were under ten years of age." These results thus confirmed the accuracy of the count of 1890. Efforts to invalidate the census returns by comparison with the registration records of Massachusetts cannot be deemed conclusive, since in the United States, as in Great Britain, the census must be deemed more accurate and less subject to error than registration records. A strong argument in favour of the eleventh census, apart from its self-consistency, is that its results as a whole fit in with the subsequent state enumerations. In eleven cases such enumerations have been taken; and on computing from them and the results of the federal census of 1880 what the population at the date of the eleventh census should have been, if the annual rate of increase had been uniform, it appears that in no case, except New York City and Oregon, was the difference between the enumerations and these estimates over 4%. In Oregon about 30,000 more people were found in 1890 than the estimate would lead one to expect; in New York city, about ioo,000 less. It seems not improbable that in the latter, where the difficulties incident to a count during the summer are almost insurmountable, serious omissions occurred. Still, such a comparison confirms the accuracy of the eleventh census as a whole.

The results of the twelfth census (1900) further refute the argument that would maintain the eleventh census to be inaccurate because it showed a smaller rate of increase in population during the preceding decade than had been recorded by other censuses during earlier decades. The rate of increase during the decade ending in 1900 was even less than that for the preceding decade; and it is impossible that a falling off so marked could in two successive enumerations be the result of sheer inaccuracy. The rate of increase from 1890 to 1900, eliminating from the computation the population of Alaska, Hawaii, Indian Territory and Indian reservations, was 20 7; the rate of increase if these places are included - in which case the figures of the population of Hawaii in 1890 must be taken from the census of the Hawaiian government in that year - was 21%.

The law regulating the twelfth census deserves to rank with those of 1790, 1850 and 1879 as one of the four important laws relative to census work. By this law the census office was far more independent than ever before. Appointments and removals were made by the director of the census rather than by the secretary of the interior, and in all plans for the execution of the law the head of the office was responsible for success. The law divided the subjects of census inquiry into two parts - first, those of primary importance, requiring the aid of the enumerator; and, secondly, those of subsidiary importance, capable of production without the aid of the enumerator. The former had to be finished and published by 1st July 1902; the latter were not to be undertaken until the former were well advanced towards completion. By this means the attention of the office could be concentrated on a small number of subjects rather than distributed over the long list treated in the volumes of the tenth and eleventh censuses.

Under the federal form of government, with its delegation of all residuary powers to the several states, the United States have no system of recording deaths, births and marriages. Hence there is no such basis as exists in nearly every other civilized state for a national system of registration, and the country depends upon the crude method of enumerators' returns for its information on vital statistics, except in the states and cities which have established a trustworthy registration system of their own. These are the New England states and a few others in their vicinity or influenced by their example. Enumerators' returns in this field are so incomplete that hardly two-thirds of the deaths which have occurred in any community during the preceding year are obtained by an enumerator visiting the families, no satisfactory basis for the computation of death-rates is afforded, and the returns have comparatively little scientific value. In the regions where census tables and interpretations are derived from registration records kept by the several states or cities they are often made more complete than those in the state or municipal documents. The census of agriculture is also liable to a wide margin of error, owing to defects in farm accounts and the inability of many farmers to state the amount or the value even of the leading crops. The census figures relate to the calendar year preceding 1st June 1900, and hurried and careless answers about the preceding year's crop are almost sure to have been given by many farmers in the midst of the summer's work.

The difficulties facing the manufacturing census were of a different character. A large proportion of the industries of the country keep satisfactory accounts, and can answer the questions with some correctness. But manufacturers are likely to suspect the objects. of the census, and to fear that the information given will be open to the public or betrayed to competitors. Furthermore, the manufacturing schedule presupposes some uniformity in the method of accounting among different companies or lines of business, and this is often lacking. Another source of error in the manufacturing census of the United States is that the words of the census law are construed as requiring an enumeration of the various trades and handicrafts, such as carpentering. The deficiencies in such returns are gross and notorious, but the census office feels obliged to seek for them and to report what it finds, however incomplete or incorrect the results may be. Even on the population returns certain answers, such as the number of the divorced or the number unable to read and write, may be open to question.

The wide range of the American census, and the publication of uncertain figures, find a justification in the fact that the development of accurate census work requires a long educational process in the office, and, above all, in the community. Rough approximations must always precede accurate measurements; and these returns, while often inaccurate, are better than nothing, and probably improve with each decade.

Besides the breadth of its scope, in which the American census stands unrivalled, the most important American contribution to census work has been the application of electricity to the tabulation of the results, as was first done in 1890. The main difficulties which this method reduced were two. The production of tables for so enormous a population as that of the United States through the method of tallying by hand requires a great number of clerks and a long period of time, and when complete cannot be verified except by a repetition of the process. The new method abbreviates the time, since an electric current can tally almost simultaneously the data, the tallying of which by hand would be separated by appreciable intervals. The method also renders comparatively easy the verification of the results of certain selected parts.

Judged by European standards the cost of the American census is very great. The following table gives the total and the per capita cost of each enumeration.

Date .




Total in

Per Capita

Total in

Per Capita


in cents.


in cents.

1 79 0




























11 ,547, 12 7







21 16

For the sake of comparison it may be stated that the per capita cost of the English census of 1901 was 2.24 cents, or little more than one-tenth that of the American census. This difference is due in part to the greater scope and complexity of the American census, and in part to the fact that in the United States the field work is done by well-paid enumerators, while in England it is done in most cases by the heads of families, who are not paid.

The course of events has clearly established the fact that the authority of the Federal government in this field is greater than the strict constructionists of a previous generation as represented by General Walker in the passage already quoted believed it to be. Decision after decision of individual instances has made it a settled practice for the Federal government to co-operate with or to supplement the state governments in the gathering of statistics that may furnish a basis for state or Federal legislation. The law has allowed the Federal census office in its discretion to compile and publish the birth statistics of divisions in which they are accurately kept; one Federal report on the statistics of marriages and divorces throughout the country from 1867 to 1886 inclusive was published in 1889, and a second for the succeeding twenty-year period was published in part in 1908; an annual volume gives the statistics of deaths for about half the population of the country, including all the states and cities which have approximately complete records of deaths; Federal agencies like the bureau of labour and the bureau of corporations have been created for the purpose of gathering certain social and industrial statistics, and the bureau of the census has been made a permanent statistical office.

The Federal census office has been engaged in the compilation and publication of statistics of many sorts. Among its important lines of work may be mentioned frequent reports during the cotton ginning season upon the amount of cotton ginned, supplemental census reports upon occupations, on employees and wages, and on further interpretation of various population tables, reports on street and electric railways, on mines and quarries, on electric light and power plants, on deaths in the registration area 1900-1904, on benevolent institutions, on the insane, on paupers in almshouses, on the social statistics of cities and on the census of manufactures in 1905. Congress has recently entrusted it with still further duties, and it has developed into the main statistical office of the Federal government, finding its nearest analogue probably in the Imperial Statistical Office in Berlin. (W. F. W.)

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Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

There are five instances of a census of the Jewish people having been taken.

  1. In the fourth month after the Exodus, when the people were encamped at Sinai. The number of men from twenty years old and upward was then 603,550 (Ex 38:26).
  2. Another census was made just before the entrance into Canaan, when the number was found to be 601,730, showing thus a small decrease (Num 26:51).
  3. The next census was in the time of David, when the number, exclusive of the tribes of Levi and Benjamin, was found to be 1,300,000 (2 Sam. 24:9; 1 Chr. 21:5).
  4. Solomon made a census of the foreigners in the land, and found 153,600 able-bodied workmen (2Chr 2:17f).
  5. After the return from Exile the whole congregation of Israel was numbered, and found to amount to 42,360 (Ez 2:64).

A census was made by the Roman government in the time of Jesus (Lk 2:1).

(See also Taxing)

This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

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Up to date as of February 01, 2010

From Familypedia

A census is a count, in common parlance usually run by a government at intervals of 5 or 10 years.


Different countries have very different laws about retention and later searchability of census records.

Adding census information to this site

Please see project:census and its talk page and Forum:Census pages. Ideas welcome!

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This article uses material from the "Census" article on the Genealogy wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.

Simple English

A census means getting information about every member of a population. Usually used meaning a population of people, but can be used to mean a population of animals. The United States has a census every 10 years, or decade.

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