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History

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Overview

1950 Overview

1950

Census Day was April 1, 1950.

Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman was President of the United States
on Census Day, April 1, 1950.

Enumeration

The 1950 census encompassed the continental United States, the territories of Alaska and Hawaii, American Samoa, the Canal Zone, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands of the United States, and some of the smaller island territories.

1950 marked the first time that the United States had a large number of military and government workers living overseas with their families, and so required specifically designed forms for this population. The Departments of Defense and State oversaw the enumerations for those stationed in places such as Germany and Japan. The enumerations of those at sea, whether on a military or merchant vessel, were similarly overseen by their agency, service, or company. These data were collected via self-enumeration on either Form P5 "Overseas Census Report" or P4 "Crews of Vessels Report."

In all, the 1950 census found 481,545 Americans living and working abroad for the federal government or on a merchant ship—a marked increase from the 118,933 found in 1940. The majority of this population could not be attached to a particular state and so were not included in the apportionment count. The exception to this was those aboard vessels docked in the United States, which were included in that state’s count. The overseas count also did not include those living abroad but not working for the federal government. While the Census Bureau did receive some Overseas Census Reports from these individuals, we did not include them in the resident population count. Learn more about the citizens stationed abroad at 1950 Census of Population: Volume 2, Characteristics of the Population.

A new survey on residential financing was conducted as part of the 1950 census. In a separate operation, information was collected on a sample basis from owners of owner-occupied and rental properties and mortgage lenders.

Efforts to Improve Coverage and Completeness

Several procedures were used to improve the accuracy and completeness of the 1950 census, including: improved enumerator training, providing enumerators with detailed street maps of their assigned areas, publishing "Missed Person" forms in local newspapers, and setting a specific night to conduct a special enumeration of persons in hotels, tourist courts, and other places frequented by transients.

For the first time, a post-enumeration survey was instituted as a further check on the accuracy and completeness of the count. The Census Bureau recanvassed a sample of about 3,500 small areas and compared these to the original census listings to identify households that may have been omitted in the original enumeration. In addition, a sample of about 22,000 households was reinterviewed to determine the number of persons likely omitted in the initial count.

Technological Advancement

The Census Bureau began using the first non-military computer—UNIVAC I—to process and tabulate data collected during the 1950 Census. Developed and built by the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation (later part of Remington Rand Corporation), company and Census Bureau officials dedicated the computer at a June 14, 1951, ceremony. A card-to-tape converter transferred data on paper punch cards to magnetic computer tape that UNIVAC used to process and tabulate 1950 Census data. Census Bureau engineers replaced paper punch cards and the card-to-tape converter with the Film Optical Sensing Device for Input to Computers (FOSDIC) in 1954.

Intercensal Activity

In August of 1954, Congress codified the various statutes, including 1929's Fifteenth Census Act, which authorized the decennial and other censuses, as Title 13, US Code. Since then, Title 13 (along with other laws) has been the underlying authority that governs the actions of the Bureau.

Further Information

A printable version of this page can be downloaded here [PDF 55KB].

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Census History Staff | Last Revised: March 29, 2022