Our relocation to Australia allowed us to take part in both the US 2020 and Aussie 2021 censuses. Yes, that is the correct English plural form of the word census. I only know because I had to look it up myself. While looking it up, I stumbled across some history of censuses. Of course, I couldn't resist including some here.
Did you know? The Roman census was the most developed in the ancient world, the word "census" coming from Latin "censere," meaning "estimate."
The first known census was taken by the Babylonians in 3800 B.C.E., nearly 6000 years ago. Records suggest that it was taken every six or seven years and counted the number of people and livestock and quantities of butter, honey, milk, wool, and vegetables.
The Bible relates stories of several censuses. The Book of Numbers describes a census that occurred when Moses led the Israelites from Egypt. A later census by King David of Israel referred to as the "numbering of the people" incited divine retribution (for being militarily motivated or perhaps displaying a lack of faith in God). A Roman census is also mentioned in one of the best-known passages of the Bible in the Gospel of Luke, describing the birth of Jesus of Nazareth in Bethlehem because Mary and Joseph had gone there to be enumerated in a Roman census.
The 1790 census was the first national census taken by the new United States government. Some government officials believed that the census had undercounted the true population of the country. Keep in mind that in 1790 there were only 13 states and several territories.
The first Commonwealth census was taken in 1911; after that, in 1921, 1933, 1947, 1954, 1961, and from then on, every five years. Full reports of the censuses 1911 - 1971 and 1981 - 1991 can be found online at the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
Censuses vary in the information they collect, but many items are standard. Most modern-day censuses follow common demographic information such as age, income, area of residence, level of education, marital status, and occupation. This information is collected to make important decisions about transport, schools, healthcare, roads, and buildings. It also helps plan local services for individuals, families, and communities.
The Australian Census was similar to the US Census, but a few differences really stood out. The ABS asked how we travel to and from work. Most surprising, though, is that they asked for the number of unpaid hours we spend on house chores (cleaning and maintenance) and the number of unpaid hours we might spend on child care or any additional care of a family member.
While the methodologies for collecting census data have definitely evolved, the statistics that make up the census are still the foundation of every civilization and population. It's all about the money and how it flows through society.