Reconstruction of Race in the US Census 1790-2020

Reconstruction of Race in the US Census 1790-2020

In setting out the structure of the new Republic, the American Constitution required that a federal government carry out a full census of the resident population. From the first enumeration in 1789 the census has distinguished people according to race, initially in the categories free white males, free white females, all other free persons, and slaves. The questions and definitions of race have subsequently changed with each census to reflect the transformations and challenges of society. The 2020 census will contain a series of questions that conflate and confuse biological race, national background and Hispanic identity to produce tools for the design and evaluation of government programs. This paper uses a genealogical case study to question the reliability of the concept of race in national censuses and to warn against innovations in measuring skin colour as alternatives to self-ascribed race identities.

Terry Hull has been affiliated with ANU Demography since 1971. With his wife Valerie, he has pursued a range of research topics in the Pacific and Asia, starting with surveys and historical studies in Fiji and Indonesia. Fluent in Bahasa Indonesia he has taught in Gadjah Mada University and the University of Indonesia as well as in the Masters Programs of the ANU. He is currently Emeritus Professor and is a Visitor in the School of Demography.

Date & time

Tue 25 Jun 2019, 11:30am to 12:30pm


Jean Martin Room, Beryl Rawson Bldg 13, Ellery Crescent, ANU


Emeritus Professor Terry Hull


Susan Cowan
6125 4273


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