Using Census Data in the Classroom
The U.S. population census records contain a wealth of information about people. The federal manuscript (population) census records are the actual handwritten names of individuals. These records provide in depth data for each individual in a census tract.
The census records are an especially helpful source for someone writing community history and for someone interested in the local social and economic conditions.
Some basic analysis of the data can help bring life in your town in 1910 into sharper focus. Students can use the document to answer the following:
What was the average age and range of ages of residents?
Compare the percentage of residents that were male or female.
What percentage of residents are foreign born?
What percentages of residents come from which countries?
What is the literacy rate among adults?
What is the most common occupation?
What is the apparent average life span in this town in 1910?
What is the typical family structure in this town in 1910?
The answers to any of these questions can be compared to the 1900 census or to the 1920 census so that trends become visible. Of course, other questions can be asked as well:
What percentage of the adult population was married?
What are the average number of children?
Are there patterns in different neighborhoods of family migration?
When do most women begin having children? What is the divorce rate?
What percentage of the population are in the lower, middle, and upper classes?
Are these classes segregated by neighborhood?
How many women have jobs outside the home?
How many men and women are unemployed, uneducated?
How does this vary by race, gender and ethnicity?
The questions vary in each census. Questions asked on the 1910 Census include:
Name of every person in the household;
relationship to the head of the household;
number of years married;
the number of children born to the mother;
the number of those children living;
birthplaces of parents;
year of immigration (if foreign born);
if naturalized or alien;
nature of trade;
if employer, worker or self-employed;
ability to read and write;
if attended school during the year;
if home was owned or rented;
if owned, if free or mortgaged;
if home was a house or a farm;
if a veteran of the Civil War;
if blind or deaf-mute.
The web site for the U.S. Census Bureau is: http://www.census.gov.
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