Up for the Count

Test your knowledge of the massive decennial data-gathering exercise known as the U.S. Census.


April 1, 2010, is, officially, a "Census Day," the day on which a Constitutionally mandated head count of the entire U.S. population takes place. If you thought your year-end close was a costly, data-intensive effort, test your knowledge about this, the mother of all counting exercises.

1) The first U.S. Census, conducted in 1790 by U.S. marshals on horseback, determined that the U.S. population was approximately:

A. 2 million people
B. 4 million people
C. 8 million people
D. 11 million people

2) That figure would have increased by more than 750,000 if the census had included:

A. Slaves
B. Children under the age of three
C. People living in territories not yet incorporated as states
D. Soldiers

3) The cost of that first census is estimated to have been just over one cent for each person counted. In 2010 the total per-person cost will be:

A. $4
B. $11
C. $26
D. $48

4) The first census in which a majority of the population lived in urban areas was also the first in which the U.S. population exceeded 100 million. It took place in:

A. 1880
B. 1900
C. 1920
D. 1940

5) To conduct the 2010 census, the Census Bureau printed 360 million questionnaires. If stacked one on top of another, the pile would:

A. Exceed the height of the Sears Tower by 1,000 feet
B. Extend from the bottom to the top of the Grand Canyon
C. Equal the maximum altitude of the Concorde
D. Equate to five times the height of Mount Everest

6) Which one of these advertising/marketing programs is the Census Bureau not sponsoring?

A. A NASCAR Sprint Cup entrant
B. A 16-vehicle, 150,000-mile road tour
C. A $130 million, 28-language advertising campaign
D. A population-themed episode of American Idol

7) Beginning in 1880, the census began to collect information beyond a simple head count. Soon the crush of data was so great that a contest was held to:

A. Determine how best to train housewives to conduct door-to-door polling
B. Develop technology that could automatically tabulate results
C. Discover how to extrapolate accurate data from smaller samples
D. Design a new questionnaire that could be analyzed in less than 30 seconds

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau; for question 2: The Relentless Revolution: A History of Capitalism, by Joyce Appleby

Answers: 1–B; 2–A; 3–D (cost includes smaller annual census projects); 4–C; 5–D; 6–D; 7–B


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