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January 27th, 2011:

Census, then and now

Hopefully you took part in the United States’ 2010 Census. As a “decennial” (taking place every 10 years) national census, it had the importance of influencing states’ representation in the House of Representatives. The first official results of the 2010 Census were released on December 21, 2010, and additional demographics will be released to the public from the US Census Bureau starting next month.

Census data from the US Census Bureau is often mined, filtered, and released through other sources, including the North Carolina State Data Center. One of our digital collections includes a number of digitized paper documents from the 1960s-1980s from the State Data Center relating to North Carolina statistics.1980 Census Example

One statistic that interested me was the growth in jobs related to computers.  In 1980, only .3% (10,484) of the employed population called themselves “mathematical, computer and natural scientists” (see image to right).  Contrast that with 2000, where the number was 2.2% (82,770).   The jump makes sense when you think about the increasing prominence of computers in everyday life.  The balance between males and females in that field has grown closer to equal, from 76% male  in 1980 to 68% male in 2000. It’ll be interesting to see and compare the results from 2010, when they’re released.

Although statistics might not seem as easy to understand as a narrative or photographs, they can actually contain some pretty interesting information. They also inform researchers, as well as local and state government officials making decisions about laws and policies that affect all of us.  There are a lot of different statistics available in our digital collections, and I’ll be featuring some that are more obscure them from time to time here on the blog.

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