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U.S. Census Bureau History: The Civil Rights Act of 1964

Signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
President Lyndon B. Johnson and Martin Luther King, Jr.,
after the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, July 2, 1964.
Photo courtesy of the Department of State.

July 2 marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. In addition, it provides for equal access to public places and employment. The passage of the act also enforced the desegregation of schools as required by the 1954 landmark Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education.

The U.S. Census Bureau provides demographic data that are used to ensure compliance with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other antidiscrimination laws such as the Voting Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act. Here are some examples of Census Bureau data related to civil rights and diversity:

  • The decennial census and the American Community Survey provide data on Hispanic origin, race, sex, age, citizenship, and language spoken at home in order to comply with civil rights laws and address racial disparities. For example, the 1970 Census revealed that Whites made up almost 88 percent of the population, while Blacks and other races accounted for 11 percent and 1 percent of the population, respectively. By the 2010 Census, Whites accounted for approximately 72 percent of the population, Blacks accounted for nearly 13 percent, and persons of other races or two or more races accounted for 15 percent of the population.
  • In 1970, the first year for which data on Hispanic origin were collected, Hispanics accounted for 4.7 percent of the U.S. population. In 2010, Hispanics made up 16.3 percent of the population.
  • The Current Population Survey reveals differences in poverty by race. In 1966, 11 percent of Whites and 42 percent of Blacks lived in poverty (poverty statistics for other groups are not available). In 2012, approximately 10 percent of Whites, 27 percent of Blacks, 12 percent of Asians, and 26 percent of Hispanics lived in poverty.
  • Data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation showed that in 2010, 41 percent of individuals aged 21 to 64 with any disability were employed, compared with 79 percent of those with no disability. Further, among people aged 15 to 64, 10.8 percent of people with severe disabilities experienced persistent poverty; the same was true for 4.9 percent of those with a nonsevere disability and 3.8 percent of those with no disability.

President Johnson meeting with civil rights leaders, January 1964
Roy Wilkins; James Farmer; Martin Luther King, Jr.; Whitney Young; and
President Lyndon B. Johnson meet in the Oval Office, January 18, 1964.
Photo courtesy of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library.

This Month in U.S. Census Bureau History

On July 17, 1964, the U.S. Census Bureau hosted an informal conference on computer applications for demographic research and analysis. At the meeting, the Census Bureau noted that it had developed programs for the UNIVAC computer to aggregate population data, prepare population projections, and construct population pyramids.

Did You Know?

The Census Bureau’s Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Tabulation highlights the diversity of the labor force. The EEO Tabulation, based on 5-year American Community Survey data, serves as the primary external benchmark for comparing the race, ethnicity, and sex composition of an organization's internal workforce to the external labor market by geography and job category.

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Census History Staff | Last Revised: June 18, 2014