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Twenty-four decades of the American Census

Jason Norwood-Young
Jason Norwood-Young

I won’t go as far as to say that The Pudding has been a bit off lately, but let’s just say that an unusual amount of time has passed since we last featured them. The latest offering from this visual essay publisher, however, breaks the drought convincingly with an incredibly detailed yet still fascinating investigation of the changes in the American census since 1790.

You can follow certain stories, such as “Race, Ethnicity and Slavery”, “War and Veterans”, or even “Census Design and Methods”, or get an overview of how questions interact with history.

Many of the stories make it clear that the Census is not a benign study in data — Congress overruled anonymity rules in 1943 to round up Japanese Americans based on the 1940 Census. You can imagine how reticent the Jewish population was when religion was included in 1960 based on this history.

There’s enough in this single visualisation that I keep going back for more, dipping in, and finding something fascinating each time.

Jason Norwood-Young
  • Journalist, developer, community builder, newsletter creator and international man of mystery, Jason was one of the first South Africans to really grasp the importance of data in the newsroom and has remained one step ahead of the trends in the field all the way. Even Naked Data was conceived before email newsletters were cool again. But what does that tell you about the measure of the man? Nothing, that's what. He hides the superman CV behind a truly mild-mannered and overly modest persona and is best described as "one of the nicest guys in the business". When he's angry, it is righteously so, and his anger always wears velvet mittens. The true signs of his genius include the ability to create multilingual puns on demand (witness the alternative Naked Data strap "Putting the heita in to data") and the fact that he offered me a job. (AO)

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