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1950 United States Federal Census Transcription Project

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Date: 1 Apr 1950 [unknown]
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United States Census Transcription Project

1950 Population Schedules of the Seventeenth Census of the United States

Overview[1]
Enumeration

The 1950 census encompassed the continental United States, the territories of Alaska and Hawaii, American Samoa, the Canal Zone, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands of the United States, and some of the smaller island territories.

Americans abroad were enumerated for the first time in 1950. Provisions were made to count members of the armed forces, crews of vessels, and employees of the United States government living in foreign countries, along with any members of their families also abroad. This enumeration was carried out through cooperative arrangements with the departments of Defense and State, the United States Maritime Administration and other federal agencies that took responsibility for distributing and collecting specially designed questionnaires.

Other persons living abroad were to be reported by their families or neighbors in the United States, but the quality of these data was considered to be poor and they were not included in the published statistics.

A new survey on residential financing was conducted as part of the 1950 census. In a separate operation, information was collected on a sample basis from owners of owner-occupied and rental properties and mortgage lenders.

Efforts to Improve Coverage and Completeness Several procedures were used to improve the accuracy and completeness of the 1950 census, including: improved enumerator training, providing enumerators with detailed street maps of their assigned areas, publishing "Missed Person" forms in local newspapers, and setting a specific night to conduct a special enumeration of persons in hotels, tourist courts, and other places frequented by transients.

For the first time, a post-enumeration survey was instituted as a further check on the accuracy and completeness of the count. The Census Bureau recanvassed a sample of about 3,500 small areas and compared these to the original census listings to identify households that may have been omitted in the original enumeration. In addition, a sample of about 22,000 households was reinterviewed to determine the number of persons likely omitted in the initial count.

Technological Advancement

The Census Bureau began use of the first non-military computer shortly after completing the 1950 enumeration. UNIVAC I (for Universal Automatic Computer), the first of a series, was delivered in 1951, and helped tabulate some of the statistics for the 1954 economic censuses. It weighed 16,000 pounds and used 5,000 vacuum tubes.

Intercensal Activity

In August of 1954, Congress codified the various statutes, including 1929's Fifteenth Census Act, which authorized the decennial and other censuses, as Title 13, US Code. Since then, Title 13 (along with other laws) has been the underlying authority that governs the actions of the Bureau.


The United States Census of 1950[2]

The United States Census of 1950, conducted by the Census Bureau, determined the resident population of the United States to be 150,697,361, an increase of 14.5 percent over the 131,669,275 persons enumerated during the 1940 Census. This was the first census in which:

  • More than one state recorded a population of over 10 million
  • Every state and territory recorded a population of over 100,000
  • All 100 largest cities recorded populations of over 100,000
Census questions

The 1950 census collected the following information from all respondents:

  • address
  • whether house is on a farm
  • name
  • relationship to head of household
  • race
  • sex
  • age
  • marital status
  • birthplace
  • if foreign born, whether naturalized
  • employment status
  • hours worked in week
  • occupation, industry and class of worker
  • In addition, a sample of individuals were asked additional questions covering income, marital history, fertility, and other topics. Full documentation on the 1950 census, including census forms and a procedural history, is available from the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series.
Data availability

Microdata from the 1950 census are freely available through the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series. Aggregate data for small areas, together with electronic boundary files, can be downloaded from the National Historical Geographic Information System. Personally identifiable information will be available in 2022.


1950 United States Federal Census Schedule I
Questions/Column Headings
[3]
1 - Name of street, avenue or road where the household is located
2 - Home or apartment number
3 - Serial number of dwelling unit
4 - Is this house on a farm (or ranch)?
5 - If no, is this house on a place of three or more acres?
6 - Corresponding agriculture questionnaire number
7 - Name
8 - Relationship to head
9 - Race
10 - Sex
11 - How old was this person on his last birthday?
12 - Is this person now married, widowed, divorced, separated, or never married? Enumerators were to enter "Mar" for married, "Wd" for widowed, "D" for divorced, "Sep" for separated, or "Nev" for never married.
13 - What State or country was the person born in?
14 - If foreign born, is the person naturalized?
15 - For persons 14 years of age and over: What was this person doing most of last week - working, keeping house, or something else? Enumerators were to record "Wk" for working, "H" for keeping house, "U" for unable to work, or "Ot" for other
16 - If the person was "keeping house" or "something else" in question 15, did the person do any work at all last week, not counting work around the house? (Including work-for-pay, in his own business, working on a farm or unpaid family work)
17 - If the person answered "no" to question 16, was he looking for work?
18 - If the person answered "no" to question 17, even if he didn't work last week, does he have a job or business?
19 - If the person was working, how many hours did he or she work in the last week?
20 - What kind of work does the person do? What kind of business or industry is the person in? Class of worker the person is. Enumerators were to mark "P" for private employment, "G" for government employment, "O" for own business, or "NP" for working without pay. Enumerators were to mark "P" for private employment, "G" for government employment, "O" for own business, or "NP" for working without pay.
21 - Was the person living in the same house a year ago?
22 - If no to question 21, was the person living on a farm a year ago?
23 - If no to question 21, was the person living in the same county a year ago?
24 - If no to question 23, What county (or nearest place) was he living in a year ago? What state or foreign country was he living in a year ago?
25 - What country were the person's mother and father born in?
26 - What is the highest grade of school that the person has attended? Enumerators were to mark "0" for no school; "K" for kindergarten; "S1" through "S12" depending on the last year of elementary or secondary school attended; "C1" through "C4" depending on the last year of undergraduate college education attended; or "C5" for any graduate or professional school.
27 - Did the person finish this grade?
28 - Has the person attended school since February 1st? Enumerators could check a box for "yes" or "no" for those under thirty; for those over thirty, they were to check a box for "30 or over."
29 - For persons 14 years and older, If the person is looking for work, how many weeks has he been looking for work?
30 - For persons 14 years and older, Last year, how many weeks did this person not work at all, not counting work around the house?
31 - For persons 14 years and older, Last year, how much money did the person earn working as an employee for wages or salary?
32 - For persons 14 years and older, Last year, how much money did the person earn working at his own business, professional occupation, or farm?
33 - For persons 14 years and older, Last year, how much money did the person receive from interest, dividends, veteran's allowances, pensions, rents, or other income (aside from earnings)?
34 - For persons 14 years and older, If this person is the head of the household: last year, how much money did his relatives in this household earn working for wages or salary?
35 - For persons 14 years and older, If this person is the head of the household: last year, how much money did the person earn working at his own business, professional occupation, or farm?
36 - For persons 14 years and older, If this person is the head of the household: last year, how much money did the person receive from interest, dividends, veteran's allowances, pensions, rents, or other income (aside from earnings)?
37 - For persons 14 years and older, If male: did he ever serve in the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II, World War I, Any other time, including present service.
38 - For persons 14 years and older, To enumerator: if the person worked in the last year, is there any entry in columns 20a, 20b, or 20c? If yes, skip to question 36; if no, make entries for questions 35a, 35b, and 35c.
39 - For persons 14 years and older, What kind of work does this person do in his job? What kind or business or industry does this person work in? Class of worker.
40 - For persons 14 years and older, If ever married, has this person been married before?
41 - For persons 14 years and older, If married, widowed, divorced, or separated, how many years since this event occurred?
42 - For persons 14 years and older, If female and ever married, how many children has she ever borne, not counting stillbirths?
  • Note: Supplementary questions from 21 through 42 were asked for a 5% sample of the population.

Sources

  1. "United States Census Bureau", website online, https://www.census.gov/history/www/through_the_decades/overview/1950.html; accessed 3 May 2020.
  2. Wikipedia: 1950 United States Census, 3 May 2020.
  3. "The United States Census Bureau", The 1950 census population questionnaire, website online, https://www.census.gov/history/www/through_the_decades/index_of_questions/1950_population.html; accessed 3 May 2020.




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Readers should know that Steve Morse, Joel Weintraub (that's me) and our volunteers took less than 8 years to put locational tools for the 1950 Census on the One-Step, stevemorse.org website. It's on the Unified Tool. You can, if you have a location for many smaller communities (we transcribed all 230,000 or so ED definitions which are searchable on the website and added under 80,000 additional small communities), or addresses for over 2,400 urban areas, get the 1950 Enumeration District number right now, so you will be prepared when the census becomes public in 2022. We also digitized all 38 rolls of National Archives Enumeration District definitions for 1950 and put those scans on the One-Step site. We have many help files to understand our freely available tools, and information on using ED maps. Joel also has two YouTube videos on his "JDW Talks" channel that discuss the 1950 census including how to use the tools.
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