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Twenty-four decades of the American Census

Jason Norwood-Young
Jason Norwood-Young
2020-04-06

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.

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