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Government Datasets, Statistical Data & Census Information

The U.S. Constitution mandates the decennial census solely as a population count. However, since its inception in 1790, the need for comprehensive information about the U.S. population and economy has become increasingly apparent.

Throughout the nineteenth century, the decennial census steadily expanded in scope. By the turn of the century, it encompassed demographic, agricultural, and economic segments, covering hundreds of topics. Processing this data necessitated the Census Office remaining operational nearly every decade following the 1880 and 1890 censuses.

Acknowledging the increasing complexity of the decennial census, Congress passed legislation in 1902 to establish a permanent Census Office within the Department of the Interior. On July 1, 1902, the U.S. Census Bureau officially commenced operations under the leadership of William Rush Merriam.

1903 the Census Office was transferred to the newly formed Department of Commerce and Labor. It continued under the purview of the Department of Commerce after the separation of Commerce and Labor into distinct departments in 1913.

For a concise overview of the Census Bureau's history and organization, please look at Factfinder for the Nation: History and Organization. Also, for a visual timeline of census history from 1790 to the present, please have a look at the Timeline of Census History.

For even more "How to" videos from the U.S. Census Bureau, visit

In addition to the links below, often an advanced Google search of the Census website is useful.  Simply search Google for your key terms along with 

Last updated on Apr 16, 2024 11:22 AM