Monday, April 02, 2012
Well it is out, the 1940 census that is and it crashed because so many people were wanting a peek. In 1940, almost 90 per cent of people surveyed were white, 9.8 per cent were black and 0.4 per cent were 'other'. In 2010, 72.4 per cent were white, while 12.5 per cent were black or African American. Just five per cent of the population in 1940 had college degrees compared to nearly 30 per cent two years ago. THE 72-YEAR RULE Information from the 1940 census is being made publicly available as its confidentiality has now expired. The government does not release personally identifiable information about an individual until 72 years after it has been collected, as dictated by federal law. The span of time was chosen as the average life of a citizen is approximately 70 to 85 years. The protection therefore assures individuals that their data will not be readily accessible to friends, family members, or other individuals during their lifetime. It is believed that the rule not only protects privacy but encourages people to give more truthful responses to census questions. Only the individual named on the record or their legal heir can access the records before the amount of time has expired. Before then people can only access general statistics about the population. It also shows the shift in the most desirable places to live. In 1940, New York, Pennsylvania and Illinois were the most heavily populated states, compared to California, Texas and New York in 2010. But while the census offers fascinating insight into a lost world, there are also privacy concerns over releasing the personal information of its living participants - more than 21 million people. Among the living are celebrities Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman,and ME as well as Verla Morris, who was working as a keypunch operator in Fairfield, Illinois, when the census was taken. Morris was one of the 132,163,569 people whose information was collected by 120,000 census takers - or enumerators - in 1940. Information included a person's address, age and education, the names of the adults and children under their roof, whether their home was owned or rented and the value of their home or rent. Other questions asked around five per cent of people for the birthplace of their parents, the language they spoke in their home as a child, their occupation and which wars they had served in. Women were asked whether they had been married more than once, their age when they were first married and the number of children they had given birth to - excluding stillborn babies. While the 2010 census had the motto 'ten questions in ten minutes' to encourage people to fill out their form, the 1940 census asked 34 questions with an extra 15 questions for the smaller subset chosen at random. Although the plethora of information will paint today's Americans a picture of the lives their ancestors lived, they will not be able to search for records by name. Instead a record can be accessed by addresses. MSNBC.com suggested that this information can be found in old city or telephone directories found in public libraries. Yet tens of thousands of genealogists, librarians and volunteers are expected to start indexing the the records.