The US Census Bureau released the 1940 census this week. I find the comparison between now and then to be fascinating. While I was born into a generation where I was expected to graduate from high school and go to college, only 5% of the population had a Bachelor’s degree in 1940. Check out this infographic from the census.gov (click the graphic to see it bigger):
They also have a great page on how the census measures data. It is fascinating to see how the method of collecting information has changed in 72 years. They ask much fewer questions now. The Census Bureau is also learning how to take advantage of technology to make the work more accurate and efficient. I worked with them for a short time in April 2009 going door-to-door to promote the upcoming census and gathered GPS coordinates of housing locations. This made it easier for the enumerators to find their way the next year when they needed to knock on doors. In 2020, it looks like you will be able to answer your census surveys online.
The census also goes far beyond these simple statistics. Population trends decide how the US Congress districts are made up. Census records are heavily depended on for genealogy research. Funding for programs are often distributed according to population and economic statistics. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Even your library uses statistics from American Factfinder to determine where you live within our service area.