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*Special Edition* 1950 Census Records Release

On April 1, 2022, the National Archives and Records Administration will release records from the 1950 Census. These records provide genealogists, historians, researchers and the public an opportunity to research family histories alongside our nation’s history. Collectively, the data from the 1950 Census revealed a country that had only recently emerged from the varied disruptions of World War II and the Great Depression.

In this Special Edition Facts for Features, we compare notable 1950 Census facts with corresponding information from the 2020 Census or most recent statistics from other U.S. Census Bureau surveys and programs. 

Release Number CB22-FF.04

1950 Census

Most Recent Statistics

Population

151,325,798
Resident population of the continental United States. (This count does not include residents of Hawaii, Alaska, and other U.S. territories and possessions at the time.) 

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331,449,281
Resident population of the United States. (This count does not include residents of Puerto Rico or the U.S. Island Areas, or the federally affiliated overseas population [military and civilian employees of the U.S. government stationed or assigned overseas and their dependents living with them overseas]).

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Housing Units

46,137,076
Total number of dwelling units in the 1950 Census. 

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140,498,736
Number of housing units counted in the 2020 Census.

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Questionnaire Design

The 1950 Census had 20 questions for all people. It was shorter than the 1940 Census, but otherwise, changes were minimal. Additional questions at the bottom of the form (Nos. 21-33c) were asked of six people per page whose name fell on a highlighted line labeled “Sample.” (There were five versions of the form to vary the sample lines.) The person on the last sample line was also asked additional questions, starting from question 34.

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In the 2020 Census, every household was asked the same basic nine questions.

Detailed demographic, economic and housing questions that used to be asked of a sample of households in the census (up through the 2000 Census) now are asked annually in the American Community Survey, which is sent to about 3.5 million addresses nationwide every year.

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Data Collection and Processing

Enumeration began in February in Alaska. Census takers began going door to door to collect responses in person on April 1, 1950, and the bulk of the data collection operations ended by June 30, 1950. A few remote locations began enumeration after April 1, all done by hand using pen and paper.

In a few districts, the Census Bureau had to modify the schedule because of bad weather, floods, recruitment problems, short working hours and unsatisfactory enumeration.  The primary data collection operations for these districts concluded in September 1950.

Processing began immediately and the Secretary of Commerce delivered the initial 1950 Census results to the president on November 2, 1950. UNIVAC I arrived in 1951 and was used to tabulate part of the 1950 Census.

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Data collection commenced as planned in January 2020 with the Remote Alaska component of the Update Enumerate operations.

The Census Bureau began inviting people to respond online, by phone or by mail on March 12, the day after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic and just a few days before the president issued a two-week stay-at-home order.

Enumerators going door to door to collect responses used hand-held devices for the first time ever. This allowed for more efficient collection and better- quality results.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, data collection was extended. The 2020 Census ended on October 15, 2020. 

Processing began immediately and the Secretary of Commerce delivered the first results of the 2020 Census to the president on April 26, 2021. 

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Data Dissemination and Uses

The 1950 Census was used to apportion the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Fourteen seats changed based on the 1950 Census.

The 1950 censuses of population, housing, and agriculture were intended to provide comprehensive, authoritative and official records of the people, their homes, and their farming activities. 

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The 2020 Census was used to apportion the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives among the 50 states. As a result, seven House seats were reallocated to different states. The 2020 Census data are also used to adjust or redraw the boundaries of electoral districts and to help determine billions of dollars in government funding for the next 10 years.  

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Communications

Beginning in 1948, the Census Bureau launched a multipronged, public relations campaign that stretched across the remainder of the 1950 Census cycle.  Some of the 1950 Census publication relations highlights are included:

  • Had newspapers print the 1950 Census questions in their papers, thus allowing respondents to have their answers on-hand when census takers visited.
  • Provided a narrative about the importance of completing the census distributed by 19, 000 newspapers, 2,000 periodicals, 1,800 radio stations and 100 television stations.
  • Had community leaders serve on local census committees, which emphasized the value to their respective populations of a complete and accurate census.

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The 2020 Census Integrated Communications Campaign branded under “Shape Your Future. START HERE.” was designed to reach 99% of the population. The campaign had more than 5,300 advertisements in 47 languages that ran on multiple platforms including print, digital, radio, television and outdoor media (like billboards and bus stops) from December 2019 through September 2020.

Highlights from the 2020 Census Communications Campaign include:

  • Development of the “Shape Your Future. START HERE.” campaign slogan and messaging.
  • Collaboration with over 400,000 nationwide partners to spread the importance of responding to the 2020 Census.
  • Paid and earned media collaboration across the nation and territories to share stories on a local level about efforts to get households to respond.
  • Email marketing and influencers were used for the first time.
  • Enhanced social media component. 

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Coverage Measurement

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 people likely omitted in the initial count.

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To understand the quality of the 2020 Census, the Census Bureau conducted the2020 Census Post Enumeration Survey. The survey’s primary goals were to measure coverage error in the 2020 Census and to improve the design and coverage of future censuses. primary goals were to measure coverage error in the 2020 Census and to improve the design and coverage of future censuses. 

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Most Populous States and Cities

14.8 million
Population of New York, the most populous state per the 1950 Census. California, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Ohio, respectively, followed. Nevada was least populous.  

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39.5 million
Population of California, the most populous state per the 2020 Census. Texas, Florida, New York and Pennsylvania, respectively, followed. Wyoming, with 577,000 residents, was least populous. All 2020 Census state population are available here.

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7.9 million
Population of New York City in the 1950 Census. Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Detroit, Baltimore, Cleveland, St. Louis, Washington, D.C., and Boston, respectively, rounded out the top 10 for cities with the largest populations in the 1950 Census. The list of the top 10 is available here.

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8.8 million
Population of New York City in the 2020 Census. Although New York remained the most populous city, it was joined in the top 10 by Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Phoenix, Philadelphia, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas, and San Jose, respectively. The list of the top 10 is available here.

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Sex

75,864,122 Total number of women in the United States
74,833,239 Total number of men in the United States
*Note: These figures represent the sum of the total population residing in the continental United States.

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167,181,735 Total number of females in the United States
162,217,007 Total number of males in the United States

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Race and Ethnicity

89.5% White alone
10.0% Black or African American alone
The percentages of the U.S. population that were White alone and Black or African American alone in the 1950 Census. The remaining 0.5% of the U.S. population fell under the “Other races” category. 
Additionally, while the Census Bureau did not have a separate Hispanic or Latino category as part of the 1950 Census, the Census Bureau counted 2,281,710 people of Spanish surname who lived in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas.

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61.6% White alone
12.4% Black or African American alone
The percentages of the U.S. population that were White alone and Black or African American alone in the 2020 Census.

Respondents had the option of choosing more than one race. Additionally, 6.0% of the population identified as Asian alone, 1.1% of the population identified as American Indian and Alaska Native alone, 0.2% of the population identified as Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone, 8.4% of the population identified as Some Other Race alone, and 10.2% of the population identified as Two or More Races.

The Hispanic or Latino population, which includes people of any race, accounted for 18.7% of the population.

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Education

57.4%
High school graduation rate for the population 17 years and over

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88.5%
High school diploma or equivalent for the population 18 years and over

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Income and Earnings

$1,917 (in 1949 dollars) Median income
$3,073 (in 1949 dollars) Median family income

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$32,280 (in 2019 dollars) Median income
$80,944 (in 2019 dollars) Median family income

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Occupation and Industries

Major occupation groups of the civilian labor force:

  • White collar workers – 21,601,000.
  • Manual and service workers – 30,445,000.
  • Farm workers – 6,953,000.

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39.5% or 61.5 million
People in the civilian labor force working in management, business, science and arts occupations

  • 27.1 million in service occupations.
  • 33.2 million in sales and office occupations.
  • 13.6 million in natural resources, construction and maintenance occupations.
  • 20.4 million in production, transportation and material moving occupations.

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