Democracy's Data : The Hidden Stories in the U.S. Census and How to Read Them
by Bouk, Dan

A Note on Methodxi
0 Stories in the Data
1 The Question Men
2 Names and Negotiations
3 Partiers
4 Counting with Friends
5 Silences and White Supremacy
6 Uncle Sam V. Senator Tobey
7 The Inventory and the Arsenal
8 The Data's Depths

A leading data historian examines the 1940 U.S. census and how it enabled both the creation of New Deal-era social programs and gathered data that would later be used against our own citizens during World War II. 30,000 first printing. Illustrations.

Dan Bouk researches the history of bureaucracies, quantification, and other modern things shrouded in cloaks of boringness. He studied computational mathematics as an undergraduate, before earning a PhD in history from Princeton University. His first book, How Our Days Became Numbered, explored the life insurance industry's methods for quantifying people, discriminating by race, and thinking statistically. He teaches history at Colgate University.

Reading the U.S. census is daunting, but cultural historian Bouk reveals the stories and history of the individuals, families, and communities behind these figures. In a first-person, casual style, Bouk analyzes the questions that have been asked by the Census Bureau and what they mean. He traces the institutional racism that has pervaded the census since its beginning-white men exclusively wrote the questions and performed the census taking, which led to a history of undercounting minorities. Bouk details how the Census Bureau violated the law by revealing the personal information of Japanese, Italian, and German citizens and noncitizens to the army and FBI during WWII. With pictures and discussion of actual census tracts, 50 pages of footnotes, and an extensive bibliography, Bouk brings out fascinating facts and history that cast a new slant on this government agency. Genealogists, history lovers, and anyone interested in how government works will find this a fun and revealing history of how politics, racism, and bias affect the census. A must purchase for public and academic libraries. Copyright 2022 Booklist Reviews.

A deep dive into the 1940 U.S. census: how it was created, completed, deployed, and even weaponized and what it can teach us about American democracy. "I hope that this book will help people hear data speak in new ways," writes Bouk, a professor of history at Colgate. "I hope readers will develop an admiration for data's depths, for the ways that sweat and blood suffuse a data set. Some people fall in love with the appearance of data as a thing more or less certain, simple, and precise. I think there is more beauty and also more truth in acknowledging and even appreciating the roots of data in the uncertain, complicated, and often hazy spaces of life." The author provides a meticulous examination of the mechanics of the census, a complex topic that includes the design of the questions, training of the enumerators, public promotion across the country, and how it affects political representation and opposition. Bouk's study of the 1940 census shows how data can be manipulated, leading to such lamentable actions as the internment of Japanese Americans during and after World War II. Using photographed examples, including the census data on a variety of significant historical figures, Bouk shines a bright light on the power of the data to be used as a tool to promote or silence the voices of certain demographics. Throughout the text, the author clearly demonstrates the importance of understanding the context of census development: what it can tell us about what was important at the time a particular census was executed as well as the often far-reaching effects on all elements of society. As Bouk argues convincingly, "looking squarely at complicated data-making processes is becoming an essential activity for all those who wish to have a say in shaping our world, from activists to policy makers, and for every person striving to remain an informed citizen." A page-turning examination of why we need to understand the census and its wide-ranging effects. Copyright Kirkus 2022 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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