Happy Census Day

Posted on 01 Apr 2010 at 8:38am

2010 Census Logo

About half of all census forms have been returned nationwide.

And who’s lagging the country in complying? Texas, of course, Dallas is particularly bad. Yes, our bitch-about-federal-spending culture will help cost the federal government $1.5 billion when enumerators are sent out to count those who refuse to send in their forms.

So if you haven’t done so yet, send in your damn form. It takes about 3 minutes to fill out. Postage is paid. And for you Tea Party-Glenn Beck protesters, it IS in the constitution. And they’re due today.

The census is easy this year. It’s the shortest census form in more than 100 years. The questions are easy. No research required. But here are some examples of what has been asked in the past:

In 2000, if you got the “long form” it was 38 pages with questions that required some research. Like how much did you spend on electricity last year? And gas? You had to go through your bills and checkbook to figure it out. And they wanted the answer to the exact dollar.

This year — no long forms.

On the first census in 1790, they asked if you were a slave owner and, if so, how many slaves did you own.

That question is not asked this year.

On the 1850 census, there was a line for:

“Deaf and dumb, blind, insane, or idiotic.”

That question was dropped in the early 1900s. Good thing because I wouldn’t know how to answer. The office here is divided on whether I’m just idiotic or fully insane.

Also from the 1850 form:

“Persons over 20 years of age who can not read and write.”

My answer would be, “I can’t.”

In 1880, the census asked:

“Profession, occupation, or trade of each person, male or female.”

Imagine. Women working! By now, insane, idiotic, deaf and blind were each separate categories but a new one was added:

“Maimed, crippled, bedridden, or otherwise disabled.”

Wow, what a decrepit country we had.

In 1910, they wanted to know if you were blind in just one eye. I wonder what prompted a count of all of the one-eyed people.

In 1930, the names were listed as:

Person:

Mother:

Father:

If I were filling it out, I’d be Mother.

In 1940, there were special questions asked only of women:

For all women who are or have been married:

Has this woman been married more than once? (Yes or No)

Age at first marriage.

Number of children ever born (do not include stillbirths).

Interesting that they didn’t care what age men were first marrying or whether men were married more than once. Maybe it was just a backwards way of getting at other vital information. Never married? Lesbian!

In 1950, the first name to be listed was the head of the household. OK, not a bad way to start. Not sexist at all really. Not until you get to the next question:

What are the names of all other persons who live here? · List in this order: – The head – His wife – then others

Yes the head of the household, HIS wife (because he owned her and she could never head a household). I’m not sure how a gay or lesbian couple, or even roommates, for that matter, even answered the 1950 census. And in 1950, the birth question is refined:

“If female and ever married, how many children has she ever borne, not counting stillbirths?”

Because we all know where babies come from. If you love someone very much and get married, maybe the stork will bring you a bundle of joy. If you’re not married, you never gave birth.

This year, bilingual forms were sent to certain neighborhoods. I received mine in English and Spanish. So I filled it out in Spanish and answered that I am not Hispanic. I would have answered that I’m insane, but they didn’t ask.

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