Monday, November 9, 2015

How the U.S. Census Defines Race

"What does America look like? To find out, historians often turn to data from the U.S. Census, which has collected information on population and race since 1790. But the census doesn't just study race in America—the terminology used in census forms can also define it. A new interactive graphic released by the Census Bureau shows how racial categorizations have changed over time.
There's not much continuity to the labels for people of color, write Laris Karklis and Emily Badger forThe Washington Post. Their piece, which offers a few alternative graphics using census race categories, shows just how often the government defines and redefines racial identities. As the Census Bureau prepares for the 2020 count, here are a few key details from the past 225 years:
Freedom and Slavery 
From the beginning, the census reflected early American realities of slavery. The very first census, which was conducted in 1790, was ordered to distinguish "free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, from all others; distinguishing also the sexes and colours of free persons, and the free males of sixteen years and upwards from those under that age." As a result, census takers counted free whites, "all other free persons," and slaves. No distinction was made between differing ethnicities, but "slave" almost always meant enslaved Africans..."
Race and Census

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