Commentary: Rediscovering America: A quiz on the US census

Commentary: Rediscovering America: A quiz on the US census

Researchers have warned that steps taken by the Census Bureau to protect individual responses may muddy other areas of data and research.

Researchers have warned that steps taken by the Census Bureau to protect individual responses may muddy other areas of data and research. (Dreamstime/TNS)

The decennial U.S. census - or Population and Housing Census as it is also known - endeavors to count every individual living in the United States and the five U.S. territories, and will take place again this year.

The quiz below, from the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University in Ohio, provides an opportunity for you to test your knowledge of the history and purpose of the U.S. Census.

1. In what Article and Section of the U.S. Constitution is the mandate to count each state's population every 10 years?

A. Article I, Section 6

B. Article III, Section 3

C. Article I, Section 2

D. Article II, Section 1

2. In what year was the first census taken?

A. 1790

B. 1811

B. 1820

C. 1846

3. What was the approximate total number of persons counted in the first census?

A. 1.9 million

B. 2.4 million

C. 3.1 million

D. 3.9 million

4. What was the approximate total number of persons counted in the 2010 census?

A. 263.7 million

B. 297.4 million

C. 308.7 million

D. 327.2 million

5. In what year did the U.S. Census Bureau become an official government agency?

A. 1893

B. 1902

C. 1921

D. 1943

6. The Census Bureau is part of which Cabinet-level department?

A. Department of the Treasury

B. Department of the Interior

C. Department of Commerce

D. None of the above; the bureau is independent

7. Census counters begin work in this state in January of each census year, three months before counting in other states begins?

A. Alaska

B. California

C. Hawaii

D. Texas

8. New York City, Philadelphia and Boston were the three largest cities according to the 1790 Census. Which of the following cities was the fourth largest?

A. Baltimore

B. Charleston, S.C.

C. Providence, R.I.

D. Washington

9. In addition to the decennial population census required by the Constitution, the U.S. government also conducts other censuses and surveys. Which of the following does the government count periodically?

A. Governments

B. Businesses

C. Farms and ranches

D. All of the above

10. For almost a century beginning with the first census, which of the following agencies was in charge of counting the country's inhabitants?

A. Federal Marshals

B. Social Security Administration

C. National Archives and Record Administration

D. Naturalization Service

Answers: 1-C, 2-A, 3-D, 4-C, 5-B, 6-C, 7-A, 8-B, 9-D, 10-A



David Tucker is senior fellow at the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University and general editor of Ashbrook's "Core Documents Collection" curricula resources. He wrote this for


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