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Counting AmericansHow the US Census Classified the Nation$
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Paul Schor

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780199917853

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199917853.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
Counting Americans

Paul Schor

Oxford University Press

This introductory chapter provides an overview of the book’s main themes. This book examines the population categories constructed and utilized every ten years by the US census. Approaching these categories from a historical perspective rather than a strictly sociological or political one permits their analysis as sites of internal and external mobilization. It also reveals the hidden evolutions by which the contents of seemingly stable categories changed while the definitions remain the same. Long-standing categories of race, such as white or black, have varied dramatically across periods and regions. Based on distinctions of origin and status—between free and slave, white and non-white, native-born Americans and immigrants or children of immigrants—over a period of a century and a half, from the creation of the federal census in 1790 to the 1940s, this study retraces the genealogy and evolution of these categories.

Keywords:   population categories, race, American population, white, non-white, immigrants, native-born Americans, US census

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