United States Census, 1840
The United States Census of 1840 was the sixth census of the United States
United States Census
The United States Census is a decennial census mandated by the United States Constitution. The population is enumerated every 10 years and the results are used to allocate Congressional seats , electoral votes, and government program funding. The United States Census Bureau The United States Census...

. Conducted by the Bureau of the Census
United States Census Bureau
The United States Census Bureau is the government agency that is responsible for the United States Census. It also gathers other national demographic and economic data...

 on June 1, 1840, it determined the resident population of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 to be 17,069,453 — an increase of 32.7 percent over the 12,866,020 persons enumerated
In mathematics and theoretical computer science, the broadest and most abstract definition of an enumeration of a set is an exact listing of all of its elements . The restrictions imposed on the type of list used depend on the branch of mathematics and the context in which one is working...

 during the 1830 Census
United States Census, 1830
The United States Census of 1830 was the fifth Census conducted in the United States. It was conducted on June 1, 1830. It determined the population of the 24 states to be 12,866,020 of which 2,009,043 were slaves. The center of population was about 170 miles west of Washington, D.C...

. The total population included 2,487,355 slaves. In 1840, the center of population was about 260 miles (418 km) west of Washington
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

, near Weston, West Virginia
Weston, West Virginia
Weston is a city in Lewis County, West Virginia, United States. The population was 4,317 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Lewis County, and home to the West Virginia Museum of American Glass.-History:...



One notable effect of the published census results on the political debates of the time was that the percentage of "insane negroes" seemed to increase the further North one went, reaching catastrophic proportions in Massachusetts and Maine. Pro-slavery advocates pointed to this as evidence of the beneficial effects of slavery. These statistics were later revealed to be false, but no formal correction to the census results was ever published, partly due to John C. Calhoun
John C. Calhoun
John Caldwell Calhoun was a leading politician and political theorist from South Carolina during the first half of the 19th century. Calhoun eloquently spoke out on every issue of his day, but often changed positions. Calhoun began his political career as a nationalist, modernizer, and proponent...

 being Secretary of State in 1844. The statistical problems were detailed in an 1844 publication of the American Statistical Association
American Statistical Association
The American Statistical Association , is the main professional US organization for statisticians and related professions. It was founded in Boston, Massachusetts on November 27, 1839, and is the second oldest, continuously operating professional society in the United States...

 entitled Memorial of the American Statistical Association Praying the Adoption of Measures for the Correction of Errors in the Census Detailing Certain Errors in the Sixth Census, Including too many Mentally Ill African Americans. This report was presented to Congress by John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams was the sixth President of the United States . He served as an American diplomat, Senator, and Congressional representative. He was a member of the Federalist, Democratic-Republican, National Republican, and later Anti-Masonic and Whig parties. Adams was the son of former...

 who notes that it demonstrates "a multitude of gross and important errors in the printed census of 1840."

Census questions

The 1840 census asked these questions:
  • Name of head of family
  • Address
  • Number of free white males and females
    • in five-year age groups to age 20
    • in 10-year age groups from 20 to 100
    • 100 years and older
  • number of slaves and free colored persons in six age groups
  • number of deaf and dumb
  • number of blind
  • number of insane and idiotic in public or private charge
  • number of persons in each family employed in seven classes of occupation
  • number of schools and number of scholars
  • number of white persons over 20 who could not read and write
  • number of pensioners for Revolutionary or military service

Data availability

No microdata
Microdata (statistics)
In the study of survey and census data, microdata is information at the level of individual respondents. For instance, a national census might collect age, home address, educational level, employment status, and many other variables, recorded separately for every person who responds; this is...

 from the 1840 population census are available, but aggregate data
Aggregate data
In statistics, aggregate data describes data combined from several measurements.In economics, aggregate data or data aggregates describes high-level data that is composed of a multitude or combination of other more individual data....

 for small areas, together with compatible cartographic boundary files, can be downloaded from the National Historical Geographic Information System
National Historical Geographic Information System
The National Historical Geographic Information System is a historical GIS project to create and freely disseminate a database incorporating all available aggregate census information for the United States between 1790 and 2000...


External links

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