In a few weeks, Americans around the country will start receiving letters from the U.S. Census Bureau, inviting them to participate in the national survey that only occurs once every decade.

It will be months before the official counts come out, but the results of the 2020 census have already been hotly contested in federal lawsuits. “The results of the census shift political power and money,” explains University of Michigan demographer Ren Farley. Today, Farley takes readers back to the census from 100 years ago. The 1920 census sparked such bitter fights that Congress ended up ignoring its results altogether. It’s a fascinating story from history – with a few troubling parallels to present day.

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A “very small section’ of the Census Bureau, sometime between 1910 and 1930. Library of Congress

100 years ago, Congress threw out results of the census

Walter Reynolds Farley, University of Michigan

The results of the 1920 census kicked off a bitter, decadelong political squabble. Could the same happen again in 2020?

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Today’s quote

“Denialist phenomena are many and varied, but the story behind them is, ultimately, quite simple. Human cognition is inseparable from the unconscious emotional responses that go with it.”


Humans are hardwired to dismiss facts that don't fit their worldview


Adrian Bardon

Wake Forest University

Adrian Bardon

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