Questions Asked on the 1950 Census

The 1950 Census had 20 questions for all persons, so it was shorter than the 1940 Census, but otherwise, changes were minimal. Additional questions at the bottom of the schedule (Nos. 21-33c) were asked of six persons whose name fell on a highlighted line labeled “Sample.” (There were five versions of the form to vary the sample lines.) The person on the last sample line was also asked additional questions, starting from 34.

In 1940, every person age 14 or over was asked questions about their income in 1939; in 1950, only persons on sample lines who were age 14 or over were asked income questions. In both 1940 and 1950, the respondent could answer income questions by either providing the information to the enumerator or completing a form and mailing it to the Census Bureau in Washington.

The Bureau of the Census made special efforts to ensure that the 1950 census was as complete and accurate as possible. The Bureau improved enumerator training and provided them with detailed enumeration district maps, conducted radio and newspaper advertising campaigns, and set aside specific nights to conduct enumerations of persons in hotels, campgrounds, YMCAs, and other places frequented by travelers and transients. Extra efforts were made to ensure all infants born from January to March 1950 were counted.

College students were enumerated where they lived while attending school, rather than where their parental homes were located. Members of the Armed Forces who slept off post were counted where they slept rather than where they were stationed.

Lodging houses, hotels, and similar places usually contained multiple dwelling units and multiple households. The enumerator was instructed that “Each group occupying separate living quarters that meet the definition of a dwelling unit should be assigned a separate serial number” while “roomers who rent sleeping quarters only should be listed with the members of the household’s family.” A dwelling unit was defined as “a group of rooms or a single room, occupied or intended for occupancy as separate living quarters, by a family or other group of persons living together or by a person living alone.” In general, quarters that did “not have separate cooking equipment” or a separate entrance from the landlord’s quarters were to be enumerated as part of the landlord’s household.

A supplemental schedule, Form P8, Indian Reservation Schedule, was used to obtain additional information on Native Americans who resided on reservations. In addition to entering each person’s name as it appeared on the regular schedule, Form P1, 1950 Census of Population and Housing, the enumerator recorded other name(s) by which that person was known, along with his or her tribe, clan, degree of Indian blood, ability to read, write, or speak English or any other language, and participation in any native Indian ceremonies in 1949.

Questions Asked on Form P1, 1950 Census of Population and Housing

Questions for all persons

  1. Name of street, avenue, or road
  2. House and apartment number
  3. Serial number of dwelling unit
  4. Is this house on a farm or ranch?
  5. Is this house on a place of three or more acres?
  6. Agricultural Questionnaire Number
  7. Name
  8. Relationship to head of household
  9. Race
  10. Sex
  11. Age on last birthday
  12. Marital status: Married (Mar), Widowed (Wd), Divorced (D), or Separated (Sep)
  13. State or country of birth
  14. Naturalization status if foreign born (Yes, No, or AP for born abroad of American parents)

Questions for persons fourteen years of age and over

  1. Was this person working (Wk), unable to work (U), keeping house (H), or doing something else (Ot) most of last week
  2. If H or Ot in item 15: Did this person do any work at all last week?
  3. If No in item 16: Was this person looking for work?
  4. If No in item 17: Even though he didn’t work last week, does he have a job or business?
  5. If Wk in item 15 or Yes in item 16: How many hours did he work last week?
  6. a. Occupation
    b. Industry in which person worked
    c. Class of worker: Private employer (P), government (G), in his or her own business (O), or without pay on family farm or business (NP)

Questions for persons on sample lines (six per sheet)

  1. Was he living in this same house a year ago?
  2. Was he living on a farm a year ago?
  3. Was he living in this same county a year ago?
  4. If No in item 23: What county (24a) and state or foreign country (24b) was he living in a year ago?
  5. What country were his father and mother born in?
  6. What is the highest grade of school that he has attended?
  7. Did he finish this grade?
  8. Has he attended school at any time since February 1st? (Yes, No, or age 30 or over)

Questions for persons on sample lines fourteen years of age and over (six per sheet)

  1. If Yes in item 17: How many weeks has he been looking for work?
  2. Last year (1949), in how many weeks did this person do any work (excluding work around the home)?
  3. a. Last year (1949), how much money did he earn working as an employee for wages or salary (before taxes and other deductions)?
    b. Last year (1949), how much money did he earn working in his own business, professional practice, or farm (net income)?
    c. Last year, how much money did he receive from interest, dividends, veteran’s allowances, pensions, rents, or other income (excluding salary or wages)?
  4. a. Last year (1949), how much money did his relatives in this household earn working for wages or salary (before taxes and other deductions)?
    b. Last year (1949), how much money did his relatives in this household earn in their own business, professional practice, or farm (net income)?
    c. Last year, how much money did his relatives in this household receive from interest, dividends, veteran’s allowances, pensions, rents, or other income (excluding salary or wages)?
  5. If male, did he ever serve in the U.S. Armed Forces during (33a) World War I, (33b) World War II, or (33c) any other time including present service? (Yes/No).

Questions for person on the last sample line if fourteen years of age and over (one per sheet)

  1. To enumerator: If person worked last year (1 or more weeks in item 30): Is there any entry in items 20a, 20b, and 20c? If Yes, skip to item 36. If No, make entries in items 35a, 35b, and 35c.
  2. a. What kind of work did this person do in his last (previous) job?
    b. What kind of business or industry did he work in (in previous job)?
    c. Class of worker (in previous job): Private employer (P), government (G), in his or her own business (O), or without pay on family farm or business (NP).
  3. If ever married (Mar, Wd, D, or Sep in item 12): Has this person been married more than once? (Yes/No).
  4. How many years since this person was (last) married, widowed, divorced, or separated?
  5. If female and ever married (Mar, Wd, D, or Sep in item 12): How many children has she ever borne, not counting stillbirths?

Self-Enumeration

The 1950 census was the last time enumerators personally visited most households with large multi-family census sheets. During the 1960 and later censuses, households received enumeration forms in the mail and mailed them back to the Census Bureau.

In 1950, the Bureau of the Census experimented with self-enumeration and household forms in certain Enumeration Districts (EDs) in Michigan and Ohio. The household forms (P12A, P12B, P12C) asked the same questions as the regular Form P1, 1950 Census of Population and Housing.

Household forms were completed by a household member in Ingham and Livingston Counties, Michigan, and Franklin County, Ohio.

Household forms were also tested in selected EDs in Genesee County, Michigan, and in Coshocton, Defiance, Delaware, Fulton, Henry, Knox, Licking, Lucas, Ottawa, Paulding, Putnam, Richland, Van Wert, and Williams Counties, Ohio, but the enumerators completed the forms for households in those areas.

HistoryHub

Find answers to your Census questions on History Hub. Free and open to anyone, you can ask questions and get answers from National Archives staff and a community of genealogy enthusiasts like you.