NEWS7 April 2022

1950 US census provides snapshot of post-war era

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US – Nearly seven million records from the 1950 US census have been made public, providing thumbnail portraits of 151 million people in 43 million homes, the most comprehensive American census released to date. 

graphical US map overlaid with speech bubbles and faces

With 14.8 million inhabitants, New York was the most populous state as per the 1950 census. California, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Ohio followed, while Nevada was the least inhabited.  

Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero explained the National Archives has been preparing for the release for a decade and commended the archive’s staff “for their dedication in preserving and providing access to this important set of records.”

Immigrants or foreign-born persons accounted for 6.7% of the total US population listed in the 1950 census, with the majority born in Italy, the former USSR, Canada and Germany. The records also cover more than 33,000 Native Americans living on reservations. In terms of ethnicity, some 89.5% respondents identified as White, 10% as Black or African American and the remaining 0.5% of the US population fell under the “other races” category. 

Additionally, while the Census Bureau did not have a separate Hispanic or Latino category as part of the 1950 census, it counted 2,281,710 people of Spanish surname who lived in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas.

Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland commented that the census is “particularly important to indian tribes, because it helps decide federal funding, which then impacts the government’s trust responsibility to native communities”.

The 1950 census marked the last time census takers visited households in person. The bureau then switched to sending out forms in the post, while nowadays the census can be completed online. 

A number of high-profile individuals are captured in the census, including Albert Einstein, who worked 60 hours a week for a yearly salary of $1,200 in 1949, when the income of the average family at the time was $3,200.

Other luminaries first recorded in the 1950 census include Bill Clinton, Barbara Streisand, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Christopher Walken, Dolly Parton, Jimi Hendrix and Muhammad Ali.