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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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From Statistics by Country of Birth to the System of National Origins

From Statistics by Country of Birth to the System of National Origins

(p.220) 17 From Statistics by Country of Birth to the System of National Origins
Counting Americans

Paul Schor

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses changes in the categories of ethnicity and immigration in the US census. From the beginning of the twentieth century to the 1930s, statistics on immigration and ethnicity took first place in schedules, published reports, and public policy. Not only did census figures establish immigration quotas, but census statisticians, with their methods and their culture, constructed the mechanism for exclusion by national origin. However, after 1928 there was a retreat from measuring ethnicity, which became evident in the 1930 and 1940 censuses by a marked lack of interest in questions of place of birth, mother tongue, and degree of assimilation. The history of the categories that made it possible to measure ethnicity is a complex one, involving three main groups of actors: advocates of immigration restriction, representatives of immigrant populations, and Census Bureau statisticians, with each group attempting to respond to contradictory demands and to defend their own interests.

Keywords:   ethnicity, national origin, US census, immigration, immigrant population, immigration quotas, place of birth, immigration restriction

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