“What historians lose when the census questionnaire is short”


As Rachel Basinger notes at Perspectives Daily, historians use the federal census to make sense of the past. I don’t use the census in my own research, but I have asked students to write neighborhood histories of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania based on early 20th census records. The census is a great way of exposing students to primary source research.

This year’s census, which is being advertised as “ten questions in ten minutes,” is, according to Basinger, “losing the stories of countless Americans, particularly those who have been historically marginalized and who do not leave many other records of their lives.”

Here is more from Basinger’s piece:

Since the census has gone digital, it is easier and quicker for many people with internet access to answer more questions. The 2020 census was a lost opportunity to tell the stories of how COVID-19 impacted specific Americans, but the 2030 census doesn’t have to be. The census is an important tool for historical research, and it’s time to give historians plenty of information to tell meaningful stories about every American.

Read the entire piece here.