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Demographic FAQs

Have census records always been confidential?

Records from the 1790 to 1870 censuses were public record and were not protected. In fact, U.S. marshals would post the records in a central place in communities for public viewing. The Census Act of 1879 made census records confidential and included penalties for disclosing the data. In 1954, Congress codified the rules regulating the confidentiality of census data as Title 13, U.S. Code.

Sorting census schedules
A Census Bureau employee sorts 1950 census schedules.

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Census History Staff | Last Revised: October 21, 2014