Not as speedy as the monthly U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ employment figures currently released for the previous month, the U.S. Census Bureau on April 2 makes available --- via the Internet --- details of the 1940 census from the National Archives, notes Grumpy Editor.
Why the extra long delay?
Official reason: “Strict confidentiality laws ensure that census records are only unsealed after 72 years have passed."
The 1940 census involved more than 120,000 enumerators who tallied information on 132 million people of which an estimated 21 million are alive today.
Compilation was done the old-fashioned way --- without computers.
It wasn’t until 1951 that the first large-scale computer --- a UNIVAC 1101 with a price tag close to $1 million --- was delivered to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The UNIVAC, short for Universal Automatic Computer, was considered to be the first capable of storing and running a program from memory. (UNIVAC became a division of Remington-Rand Inc.)
The census form in 1940, a year before the start of World War II, contained 34 questions directed at households plus 16 others aimed at 5 percent.
After the lengthy Great Depression (which started in 1929), one of the most sensitive questions in 1940 dealt with personal income.
So it was placed at the end of the survey.