Episode 112 Resources – The Count: Behind the 1920 and 1930 US Census

In this third episode in our Dawn of a New Decade series, learn the ins and outs of the two census that cover the beginnings of the Great Migration into the economic downturn known as the Great Depression.

Click here to watch episode 112 

Previous Episodes of Interest:

1920 US Census

  • Home ownership: columns 26-29 on 1910 versus 7-8 on 1920
  • “Mother of how many children” (columns 10-11) removed
  • Citizenship: moved from 15-16 to 13-15 with question added about year of naturalization
  • Education: moved from 23-25 on 1910, 16-18 on 1920
  • Nativity: Mother tongue added in columns 20, 22, 24 for individual and parents
  • Occupation: columns 18-22 on 1910, columns 26-28 in 1920
  • Physical disability columns removed

1930 US Census

  • Place of abode date shifts from from January 1 to April 1
  • Home Data updated – Value of home, if owned, or monthly rental, radio set, does this family live on a farm
  • One-drop rule codified: “The biggest change was in racial classification. Enumerators were instructed to no longer use the “Mulatto” classification. Instead, they were given special instructions for reporting the race of interracial persons. There were specific instructions for reporting race. A person of mixed White and Negro blood was to be returned as Negro, no matter how small the percentage of Negro blood; someone part Indian and part Negro also was to be listed as Negro unless the Indian blood predominated and the person was generally accepted as an Indian in the community.”
    • “A person of mixed White and Indian blood was to be returned as an Indian, except where the percentage of Indian blood was very small or where he or she was regarded as White in the community. For persons reported as American Indian in column 12 (color or race), columns 19 and 20 were to be used to indicate the degree of Indian blood and the tribe, instead of the birthplace of father and mother.
    • In order to obtain separate figures for Mexicans, it was decided that all persons born in Mexico, or having parents born in Mexico, who were not definitely White, Negro, Indian, Chinese, or Japanese, would be returned as Mexicans (Mex).
    • Any mixture of White and some other race was to be reported according to the race of the parent who was not White; mixtures of colored races were to be listed according to the father’s race, except Negro-Indian (discussed above).”
  • Age at first marriage (column 15) – do the math based on the marriage license and don’t assume it’s to the person they’re listed with
  • Consolidated whether able to read and whether able to write into one column (column 17)
  • Mother tongue eliminated for parents but made into “Language spoken in home before coming to the United States.”
  • Citizenship: moved from columns 13-15 in 1920 to columns 22-24 in 1930
  • “College students, except cadets at Annapolis and West Point, were to be enumerated at their homes, but student nurses were to be counted where they were being trained. Veteran status (items 30 and 31) excluded persons who served only during peacetime. The war or expedition was to be entered by an abbreviation: World War, WW; Spanish-American War, Sp; Civil War, Civ; Philippine insurrection, Phil; Boxer rebellion, Box; or Mexican expedition, Mex.”
  • Mexican repatriation – The Employment Effects of Mexican Repatriations: Evidence from the 1930’s 
  • Bureau Gave Up Names of Japanese-Americans in WW II; Government documents show that the agency handed over names and addresses to the Secret Service. JR Minkel, Scientific American, 3 Jan 2007 

Episode Resource Content:

Measuring America: The Decennial Census from 1790 to 2000. US Dept of Commerce, (2002) 

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