Probing questions have a long census history

Carson City resident Dick Baublitz got the Census long form and he didn't like the questions he saw.

He suspects the Internal Revenue Service had some input on the questions asked.

He declined to answer many of these questions, instead signing his census form with: "What are you? The IRS? None of your damn business."

When Baublitz sees questions about who holds the mortgage on your home, he can't rationalize what this has to do with counting the nation's population. Same goes for questions about other properties a person owns, how much a person earns or where they work.

"These are questions the IRS would ask," Baublitz said. "It's pretty obvious to me the IRS had an impact on what questions were asked."

The U.S. Census has a history of asking probing questions that go beyond simply counting the populations.

The 1920 census asked the obvious questions like name, rent or own, color, age, marital status and job.

But that year also saw a specific focus on immigration. The census asked about the year a person immigrated to the United States and whether the person was naturalized or an alien.

A new question in 1920 asked in which year was the person naturalized.

The nation's literacy was addressed in the 1920 census, with respondents asked whether they could read and write. The census also wanted to know the mother tongue of the person and of the mother and father.

The 1920 census, however, no longer asked if the respondent served the Union or Confederate military.

Indeed, the census 80 years ago asked if a person had a mortgage or owned the home. The 16th amendment allowing income tax was 7 years old in 1920.


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