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Through the Decades

LBJ in front of population clock
An enumerator conducts an interview for the 1920 Census.
Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The census has been taken every ten years since the early days of the United States of America.

Although the U.S. Census Bureau carries out hundreds of surveys every year, its most well-known duty is still to conduct the decennial census. Census results have several high profile applications: they are used to reapportion seats in the House of Representatives, to realign congressional districts, and as a factor in the formulas that distribute hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funds each year. Because of the importance of this population count, procedural changes in the decennial census often reflect larger organizational shifts at the Census Bureau.

This section follows the evolution of the decennial census by detailing the events surrounding each of them. Political and technological changes, and the shifting public demand for information, have all shaped the modern census and the mission of the Census Bureau.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Census History Staff | Last Revised: November 03, 2015