Census: Name, Number, Sex, Age

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Questions 4-7 on the U.S. Census ask you for your telephone number, name, age, sex, and birth date. Some are reluctant to give up this information. D'Vera Cohn, senior writer at the Pew Research Center, explains what they actually use that information for and what the answers to those questions reveal about how the U.S. population has changed over time.

Just Launched! "10 Questions That Count" Census Home Page

Anecdotal Census: What does your name mean to you? Comment below!


D'Vera Cohn

Comments [21]

Eugenia Renskoff from Williamsburgh, Brooklyn

My name Eugenia is an aristocratic name. There was an empress in France in the 19th century whose name was Eugenia. When I was young I wanted a more common name, like Susan or Mary. Now I value the name Eugenia, though it is an unusual name in the United States. I almost always have to spell it out for people. Eugenia Renskoff

Mar. 24 2010 03:57 PM
Doris Sieck Dubac

to: Brian Lehrer
from: Doris Sieck Dubac

subject: no provision for maiden name data on the US census form

I use my maiden name as a middle name.

I was 28 when I married.
Using my maiden name, I had gone through grammar school and high school and college,
and years of working in the computer software field at various companies as a contractor/consultant. Indeed, after I was married, one new employer who knew me from a job before I was married, remarked that it was important that I had included my maiden name on my resume.

My married last name is the last name of my father-in-law.
It is of a different ethic group than my own mixed background.

It was a disappointment that, as I recall, the census form allowed only for a middle initial on the census form, so I put my first and middle names in the first name field.

About two years ago,
I used 1930 census data as part of tracing what had happened to one of my uncles.
I though it was important to have my maiden name on MY 2010 census data.

Mar. 24 2010 12:26 PM
Fran Lehen from New York City

When I got a divorce I didn't want any man's name. My mother was dead and her first name was Helen so I made an anagram and my father thought it was an honor to her. When people ask me what nationality it is, I tell them it's feminist.

Mar. 24 2010 11:35 AM
Katherine O'Flaherty from Maine

Hi Brian. My name is Katherine O'Flaherty. Katherine was my paternal grandmother so I am named for her. My family moved to the United States from Ireland in 1987 when I was 12. I will be graduating with my PhD in history in a little over a month and a few days ago I filled out a form that asked me how I wanted my name to appear on my degree. I was overcome with emotion as I stood there...I was the first person in my family to graduate from college and go to grad school. As I wrote my name on the form I thought about all the people who worked long hard anonymous lives so I could some day fill out that form. My great grand father could not read or write. My grand parents went to grammar school and never finished. I wrote my name on that form for all of them as I fought back tears. So my name is my history, my present, and my future.

Mar. 24 2010 11:35 AM
Diana R Wienbroer from NYC Upper Westside

Wish I could have commented while the guest was on today. She indicated that the Census Dept. will be making corrections--e.g. changing the sex indicated for Mary from male to female. Well hasn't she heard of "A boy named Sue"?

Also I would like to hear how we make corrections. My father was still compaining on his deathbed about the time the census person during the interview wrote the wrong date down for his parent's marriage, rendering him and his brother illegitimate.

Mar. 24 2010 11:31 AM
the truth from BKNY

Surnames have limited meaning for Black Americans.

Mar. 24 2010 11:30 AM
Calls'em As I Sees'em from Langley, VA

Why does the government stress what divides us instead of what unites us? Why does the government create an environment that rewards failure and punishes success? This is the perverted and dangerous by-product of progressive politics, education and socialization that has greatly weaken America instead of making it stronger.

Mar. 24 2010 11:30 AM
peipei ("pay-pay") from manhattan

Peipei is Chinese. It means "precious precious". :) my parents had inflated hopes.

Mar. 24 2010 11:27 AM
Naomi from Brooklyn

Many people assume my race based on my name.

A Greek last name is the last thing they would expect to see from a black girl from queens with a Hebrew first name.

The assumption of race based on name is ridiculous to me.

Mar. 24 2010 11:24 AM
Sylvia from Massachusetts

I'd like to hear some speculation on what would happen if we stopped counting ethnicity. Does the counting not encourage racism?

Mar. 24 2010 11:23 AM
CK from NJ

And why is Male always first?--always!! It's not even alphabetical.

Mar. 24 2010 11:21 AM
Moe from Ohio

Two years ago I changed my name from something ethnically identifiable to something more mainstream, so if the census guessed my ethnicity using my name they would probably get it wrong.

Mar. 24 2010 11:21 AM
Kate Sarfaty from bergen county

My girlfriends renamed me Kate from Katherine when we were young and just entering our own lives. It gave me a new identity that freed me in a way that is hard to explain in a short note. I love it and always have. I am still grateful to my friends for this

Mar. 24 2010 11:21 AM
Empka from Brooklyn

What do you do if you did not receive a form?

Mar. 24 2010 11:18 AM
Sunshine Hernandez from Bushwick

my name has always been interesting to me being a first generation Cuban with parents who not only embraced America culture but also a generation of hippies

Mar. 24 2010 11:18 AM
Calls'em As I Sees'em from Langley, VA

My name means that I am a free American, or at least I was before Obama's march to Communism.

Under the Constitution the government is only entitled to the number of people in each household.

No one should give the government any other information - at all.

We should all be treated equally whether white, black, latino, male, female, young, old, etc. The government only needs the number - nothing else.

PS - most Hispanic named people (legal citizens) in the US self identify as white and not as latino, because their families have been in the country as citizens for generations.

Mar. 24 2010 11:16 AM
Reema Hijazi from Greenpoint

I love my name. I'm Palestinian American and my name displays that in every part. Reema means "little dear" in Arabic. My parents chose it because it's Arabic but easy for English speakers to pronounce. There's no way to mispronounce it when you read it.

My last name is Hijazi, which means "from the Hijaz," which is the holy region in the Arabian peninsula.

My middle name is Inaam, which is my grandmother's name, and means "gift from God." The best part of my name is that even though it's completely Arabic, it is formed in an American way---my middle name is the name my parents chose, not simply my father's and grandfather's first names (the patriarchal Arab way names are formed).

My name is totally unique and quite feminist!

Mar. 24 2010 11:14 AM

Patel didn't make the common name list? When I was in college and the teacher would take attendance probably a quarter of the class would be Patel, at least in technical classes.

Mar. 24 2010 11:14 AM
Vinay from Washington Heights

Hello Brian,

I wonder why the census chooses to use the term "race" when they are clearly designating different national (not even ethnic) groups -- Asian Indian vs. pakistani for instance. It is troubling that the these terms are being used as if they are synonyms. Could you please ask your guest about the rationale for this choice?

Mar. 24 2010 11:13 AM
hjs from 11211

going over old censuses, in the past the census questions were more interesting and of historic interest.

Mar. 24 2010 11:10 AM
Caitlin from Jersey City

Why does the census ask your age as well as your birthday? Can't they determine the one from the other?

Mar. 24 2010 08:03 AM

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