1940 Census Fun Facts 1

  • With 3,784,664 people, Missouri was the 10th largest state in 1940.
  • In August 1939, the Census Bureau conducted a special census in two Indiana counties using questions proposed for 1940 census. The result of this test modified some questions and finalized the schedule design. (These schedules did not survive.)
  • Officials agreed to add new questions on migration, income, fertility, education, social security, usual occupation, and unemployment.
  • Between 1930 and 1940 the U.S. population dropped to a historical low growth rate of 7.3 percent, however, the population in Washington, DC increased by 36 percent.

    Missouri's population growth dropped to 4.3 percent between 1930 and 1940, compared to the 6.6 percent growth during the previous decade. While St. Louis County grew by 30 percent and Columbia grew by 23 percent, the City of St. Louis experienced a slight decline (0.7 percent) and Kansas City grew by only 0.1percent.
  • Internal migration redistributed nine Congressional House seats. Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee, California, New Mexico, Arizona, and Oregon all gained seats. Massachusetts, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Indiana each lost one seat.
  • The population center of the United States in 1940 was Sullivan County, Indiana. Each decade the population center shifts further south and west. In 1980 it was located in Jefferson County, Missouri, near De Soto. The population center for the most recent census, 2010, is near Plato, in Texas County, Missouri.

1940 Map

  • The income questions in columns 32 and 33 caused controversy. A campaign to force the administration to delete the questions was unsuccessful, but a compromise allowed individuals who did not want to give the information to the enumerator to send in a confidential card listing their income. A "C" (for confidential report) will appear in the right hand margin opposite the name on the census record. In the end, only 2% of the population did not answer the question.
  • The employment question in column 22 asks if the individual was assigned to "Public Emergency Work" such as the Works Progress Administration (WPA), the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) or the National Youth Administration (NYA) the week of March 24, 1940. If an individual did work for a government organization, their personnel records are held at the National Personnel Record CenterExternal Site in St. Louis.
  • Each household was asked to list every individual whose usual place of residence on April 1, 1940 was in that household. People temporarily absent from the household were indicated with an "Ab" after their name.
  • Individuals were asked to list where they lived on April 1, 1935, a sort of bonus census. If they were living in the same house, "same house" was recorded in column 17. If they were living in the same city or town, but in a different house, "same place" was recorded in column 17. In both instances, columns 18-20 were left blank.
  • If they lived in a different place, individuals indicated the name of the city, town or village (If their previous location had fewer than 2,500 inhabitants an "R" was entered), county, state and whether or not their previous residence was a farm.
  • Persons enumerated on lines 14 and 29 (about 5 percent of the population) were asked additional supplementary questions including the place of birth of their parents, native language, if they were veterans, had a social security number and what their usual occupation and industry were. Women who were married (or had been married) were asked if they had been married more than once, their age when they first married and the number of children ever born (not including stillbirths).
  • If no one was home when the enumerator 1st visited the house, the enumerator would return on another day, recording these names starting on page 61.

    Example: Harry, Bess and Margaret Truman lived with Bess's mother when not in Washington, D.C. The Wallace's were enumerated on page 7B and the Truman's were enumerated on page 61B.

Madge Wallace census record Harry S. Truman census record
Madge Wallace census record PDF Icon Harry S. Truman census record PDF Icon

  • Transients were recorded starting on page 81 of each enumeration district.
  • In April 1940, unemployment stood at 15 percent of the labor force and totaled 8 million.
  • The Census worked with the Bureau of Vital Statistics to check accurate birth registration in each state. Census enumerators gathered information on infant cards including exact date of birth, exact place of birth, maiden name of mother and hospital of birth. Unfortunately, the Census Bureau disposed of these cards.
  • The U.S. Census Bureau conducted a publicity drive using radio programs, newspaper advertisements, mass mailings and teacher involvement to encourage cooperation and participation in the census. The Three Stooges made a short film in 1940 titled "No Census No Feeling".
  • The 1940 census fell on the 150th anniversary of census taking in America.
  • Enumerator salaries ranged between .5 cents and .8 cents a person, depending on the geographic area and the schedule they were enumerating. Rural enumerators were paid more because of the greater distance they had to travel between farm households.
[1] Many of the fun facts were adopted from "Family Tree Friday: Interesting facts about the 1940 Census," NARAtions: The Blog of the United States National Archives. February 3, 2012. http://blogs.archives.gov/online-public-access/?p=7220External Site.