History and the Numbers

Colourful Pile of Old Books

At-a-Glance:  U.S. Census & Racial Identity

Beginning in 1790, the U.S. has undertaken a count of the country’s population every ten years. Its purpose is to establish representation in government, taxation and distribution of funds to states and localities, based on population. These allocations are dependent upon counting the entire population. Because the implications and ramifications of representation matters, certain policies were initially implemented to prevent a count of all individuals. 
 

Race played a factor in these policies. Slaves were counted as three-fifths of a person until 1868. Native American Indians were not counted until 1870. As the population grew, racial categories were added, but U.S. census takers determined an individual’s race until 1960. With the changing immigration policies, the demographics of America is becoming more diverse. 
 

It is unclear if the Asian Indian population is included in the Asian and Pacific Islander population census figures here prior to 1980. Upon lobbying by the Association of Indians, Asian Indians were re-categorized for inclusion as Asian and Pacific Islander beginning in the 1980 census. Prior to that, they were categorized as Caucasians.

As a result of the heterogeneous population, the fastest growing underrepresented group in the U.S. is multiracial individuals. 

 

1790 – Total U.S. pop. 3,929,214

 

1860 - Total U.S. pop. – 31,443,321

          Chinese pop. - 34,933

 

1870 - Total U.S. pop. - 38,558,371

          Chinese pop. - 63,199

          Japanese pop. - 55

 

1880 – Total U.S. pop. - 50,189,209
   Asian and Pacific Islander pop. - 105,613 

 

1890 - Total U.S. pop. - 62,947,714

          Asian and Pacific Islander pop. – 109,527

 

1900 – Total U.S. pop. - 75,994,575

          Asian and Pacific Islander - 114,189

 

1910 – Total U.S. pop. - 91,972,266

          Asian and Pacific Islander - 146,863

 

1920 – Total U.S. pop. - 105,710,620

          Asian and Pacific Islander - 182,137

 

1930 – Total U.S. pop. - 122,775,046

          Asian and Pacific Islander - 264,766

 

1940 – Total U.S. pop. - 131,669,275

          Asian and Pacific Islander - 254,918

 

1950 – Total U.S. pop. - 150,697,361

          Asian and Pacific Islander - 321,033

 

Starting in 1960, individuals were able to choose their own race.

 

1960 – Total U.S. pop. - 179,323,175

          Asian and Pacific Islander - 980,337

 

1970 – Total U.S. pop. - 203,210,158

          Asian and Pacific Islander - 1,526,401

 

1980 – Total U.S. pop. - 226,545,805

          Asian and Pacific Islander - 3,500,439

 

1990 – Total U.S. pop. - 248,709,873

          Asian and Pacific Islander - 7,273,662

 

Starting in 2000, individuals were able to select more than one race.

 

2000 – Total U.S. pop. - 281,421,906

          Asian and Pacific Islander - 10,641,833

          Two or More Races - 6,826,228

 

2010 – Total U.S. pop. 308,745,538

          Asian and Pacific Islander - 15,214,265

          Two or More Races - 9,009,073

2020 Census Data