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Quarterly Journal of Economics, VOL. 2 (1888), PP. 135-61


ON the first day of the present session of Congress, the Hon. S. S. Cox, of New York, introduced into the House of Representatives a resolution providing for the appointment of a committee on the Eleventh Census. The offering of this resolution calls attention to the near approach of another decennial enumeration, under the Constitution. It is most fortunate that the active, progressive, and enlightened statesman who framed the law of March 3, 1879, is still in Congress to apply the experience of the last census to the legislation for the next. Mr. Cox's promptitude shows that his interest in the subject has suffered no abatement.

In undertaking a discussion as to what should be done towards the performance of this most important constitutional function, it will perhaps be well to recognize the fact that the preparations for the Eleventh Census are likely to be in some degree embarrassed by the financial and other misfortunes which befell its immediate predecessor. The successive deficiency appropriations for that work, the delays in the publication of some of the later volumes, together with the newspaper attacks upon the census, which became epidemical in 1882 and 1883, have created, in the minds of most of those who have any impression at all on the subject, the belief that the Tenth Census was extravagantly expensive. Yet no opinion could be more unfounded. The fact is that, considering the new ground covered, the Tenth Census was a marvel of cheapness. Even if we leave out all consideration of the great extent and variety of statistical work then for the first time undertaken, and treat all this as having cost absolutely nothing, we shall still find that the cost of the Tenth Census, per capita of inhabitants, ex

ceeded that of the Ninth Census by far less than the ratio in which the cost of the Ninth Census exceeded that of the Eighth.* Yet no one ever took exception to the expenditures of 1870-72, and that work was finished to public satisfaction. A continuous progressive enhancement in the per capita cost of successive censuses is to be anticipated, even though the scope of enumeration be in no degree. widened, by reason of the continually expanding detail † into which the traditional classes of statistics will inevitably be drawn, under the ever-growing popular demand for local and minute information. On the other hand, if the scope

* The cost, per capita of inhabitants, of the last four censuses, exclusive of printing and engraving, was as follows:

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The increase from 1860 to 1870 represents: (1) the advance in wages and salaries which took place during the war period, and which, in the main, has never been receded from; (2) the addition of extensive statistical inquiries beyond what had been previously undertaken; (3) the rendering of the familiar matter of enumeration into vastly greater detail, as will appear in the next note.

Thus, in 1860, the distribution of the population, according to ages, was into the following classes: under 1, 1-5, 5-10, 10-15, 15-20, 20-30, 30-40, and so on, by decennial periods upwards; in all, 14 classes. In 1870, under the demand for more minute information regarding the number of persons of school age, of voting age, of military age, etc., the following classification was adopted: under 1, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5-10, 10-15, 15-18, 18, 18-20, 21, 21-25, 25-30, 30-35, and so on, by quinquennial periods upwards to eighty years, and thence upwards by ten-year periods; in all, 25 classes.

Even so, the occasions for distributing population according to ages were not considered to have been fully met; and, in compliance with numerous and pressing requests, including resolutions of conventions and public bodies, the ages of the population of 1880 were ascertained by single years, amounting to over one hundred specifications.

Again, in 1860, the occupations of the people were tabulated in the gross, solely. In 1870, the occupations reported were distributed among six different classes, according to sex and age. At a score of points, a corresponding increase took place in the amount of detail presented. Every such instance adds appreciably, often greatly, to the labor and cost of compilation.

of enumeration is to be widened, this must be paid for, and paid for handsomely.

The cost of the Ninth Census, 1870, was, in round numbers, $3,360,000, exclusive of printing and engraving. With the population of that period, the per capita cost was, therefore, 8.71 cents per head. The cost of the Tenth Census, including both enumeration and compilation, but excluding, as in the former case, printing and engraving, was $4,853,350, which, with the population of 1880, yields a cost per head of 9.68 cents, leaving the total cost of all the new work, then for the first time undertaken, as well as of the vastly increased detail into which the traditional matter of enumeration was rendered, less than one cent per head of the population. Such a comparison must remove from the mind of any candid and intelligent person the opinion that the Tenth Census was marked by extravagance. No person familiar with statistical work could spend an hour in comparing the reports of 1880 and those of 1870, and not be astonished that the vastly greater work could have been done at so slight a relative increase of expense; and, in fact, this was only accomplished by the most painful economy at all points where saving was possible, and by pushing the clerical force forward at a rate of which, it is fair to say, government offices in Washington have had little experi


Perhaps an even more striking vindication of the economy with which the national census of 1880 was conducted is found in the cost of the last State Census of Massachusetts, in 1885. The schedules of enumeration here were not, at all points, coextensive with those of the last national census: some subjects which were treated in the former set of schedules were omitted in the latter, and vice Taken all together, however, the scope of enumeration and compilation, in the two cases, may fairly be said to have been equivalent. Yet the cost of the Massachusetts census was 9.47 cents, exclusive of the printing of the final reports. The cost of the preliminary printing, including portfolios, schedules, instructions, etc., is not known to me; but, putting the United States Census of 1880


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