In this guide, census information is broken into two discrete categories: population statistics, and the manuscript census. "Population statistics" are numbers describing various characteristics of the population, and are available through a variety of free and library subscription resources. "Manuscript census" refers to the actual forms on which the census information was recorded, with precise information on individual citizens and households. They are kept confidential for 72 years after their recording, at which point the Census Bureau makes them available to the public.
The Constitution spells out the obligation and objectives of the census, in Article I, Section 2: "Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three-fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct."
To get to know the census better, explore IPUMS' collection of digitized published census volumes. It's a great way to track major changes on many issues in the U.S. over time, and you'll be surprised what you can find!
Make a copy
The Government Information Library is a regional library of the Federal Depository Library Program as well as a depository of Colorado state, United Nations, and European Union information. It consists of over five million items from the United States government, Colorado and other state governments, foreign governments, and international governmental organizations like the UN. As a federal depository, the Library also offers assistance and its collections to members of the public. This includes providing public computers for unrestricted access to government information on the Internet.
The Census was established to count citizens for proportional representation in Congress.
1790—Each slave was 2/3 of a person. Native Americans were not counted.
Fast forward to the present.
2010—Every resident of the US is counted.
The Census also counts industries, employment, housing, governments, and more. The Census continues to evolve as political and social needs change.
Information is arranged by government entity or agency. The agency is the best place to start.