Comparability of the Public Use Microdata Samples: Enumeration Procedures

Miriam L King, Diana L Magnuson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Examines the procedures that the US Census Bureau has used to collect census data since 1850. From 1850 to 1870, federal marshals were charged with appointing assistants to collect census data. Because the primary duties of marshals concerned law enforcement, census taking became burdensome, and the assistants they chose were usually ill-trained political appointees. This changed in 1880 when the Department of Interior appointed administrators of the census who could be more closely supervised. Census administrators then selected their own enumerators. This system served as a model for later censuses, and refinements were introduced in order to improve the quality of the enumerators. Such reforms included written exams, the use of street books to insure more accurate counts, and training seminars. The 1960 and 1970 censuses ushered in the age of self-enumeration whereby census questionnaires were mailed to each household, and the data was then processed with electronic equipment. These reforms dramatically reduced census undercounts.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-32
Number of pages6
JournalHistorical Methods
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1995


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