1950 U.S. Census Publications Available in HathiTrust

April 16, 2021

1950 US Census Collection

In anticipation of the National Archives releasing the Seventeenth Census of the United States, 1950 on April 1, 2022, we are highlighting a new collection curated from reports available in HathiTrust, the U.S. Census of Population: 1950. We expect that the 2022 release of the head of household primary source records will generate tremendous public interest in the census, and this collection of published census volumes in HathiTrust offers a complementary and equally rich insight on the United States at the beginning of a pivotal decade.

Collection Description

HathiTrust contains many digitized reports from the 1950 census of population, and we’ve gathered key reports into this collection. If you are not familiar with these reports, here’s an overview of what you will find:

  • Volumes 1 & 2 contain a national overview as well as reports from every state.
  • Volume 3 contains reports about metropolitan areas, divided into census tracts (tracts contain around 4,000 people and 1,400 housing units).
  • Volume 4 contains reports on various topics, including occupation, place of birth, and education.
  • Volume 5 contains special reports, which are indexes to data reported elsewhere, plus a report on farms and farmers.

Also included are the procedural studies on how the census was conducted, and the census monograph series, which draws on government data reported elsewhere and highlights significant results of the 1950 census. These monographs provide detailed analyses of topics such as fertility, families, and agriculture; title examples include American Agriculture: Its Structure And Place In The Economy; Immigrants And Their Children, 1850-1950; Social Characteristics Of Urban And Rural Communities; American Families; Residential Finance, 1950; America’s Children; and Fertility Of American Women. Census monograph reports were not produced for 1930 and 1940 due to the Great Depression and war efforts respectively. From these titles, one can see that these reports provide open access, primary source, quantitative and qualitative data of interest to all disciplines.

To have all of these census reports immediately accessible in one location is a great service for researchers given the difficulty of finding and traveling to a library that has a complete set of print reports. This collection makes it possible for scholars, students, and librarians to browse more than 190 digitized reports. The availability of keyword searching within the scoped collection makes it easier to find buried topics or obscure geographic locations, and can save researchers a considerable amount of time. For example, keyword searching for the name of a state will bring up publications that don’t have the name in the title.

The collection is easily accessible under the “Collection” header once you’ve accessed the HathiTrust or directly by using this shareable link: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/mb?a=listis&c=1986287266.

A Group Effort

This collection is an example of what one group can accomplish using their shared expertise. Working together, the HathiTrust Federal Documents Advisory Committee created this resource for researchers interested in the 1950 census and the discovery of lesser-known or less-used 1950 census special reports. To guide their work, the committee used the Bureau of the Census Catalog of Publications, 1790-1972 (SuDoc #: C 56.222/2-2:790-972) which provides a complete list of publications associated with the 1950 census.

The committee created two evaluation rubrics to assist in selecting the best volume available in HathiTrust. These were Digitized Rendering Quality: text, images, and gutters/margins; and Metadata Quality: item description overall, volume enumeration and chronology, analytic cataloging of monographic series, and completeness of series. Because of the committee’s familiarity with the reports, a known concern was the very narrow interior margins that can be a digitization problem when scanning from volumes that are not disbound and can result in incomplete page scans.

The group also used a spreadsheet to inventory the reports and to track HathiTrust identifiers such as volume ID# and volume URL, and to record important notations. Searching HathiTrust yielded a complete list of the reports found, as well as identified potential gaps or reports that may not be in HathiTrust. From this inventory, reports were selected for the collection, and HathiTrust staff assisted with the final steps necessary to create a new collection in HathiTrust.

Further Assistance with Census Reports

The HathiTrust Federal Documents Advisory Committee encourages you to browse, use, and promote this collection of federal documents which are available to HathiTrust members and the public. We also encourage users to seek out federal depository library collections near you and to consult with depository coordinators at those libraries. If you have questions about any of these reports, please contact a library that is part of the Federal Depository Library Program or contact the U.S. Census Bureau.

For information on the U.S. Census of Population: 1950 HathiTrust collection or to report quality issues, contact feedback@issues.hathitrust.org.