When the first U. S. Census was completed in 1790, it counted a population of 4 million. By 1990, it is expected to increase to 250 million, of whom 29 million will be living in California.
This forecast by Arthur Young, chief of the U. S. Bureau of the Census' housing division in Washington at a Census Table meeting at the Marina Beach Hotel in Marina del Rey, reaffirms California's continuing leadership as the nation's most populous state.
Young focused on the bureau's efforts to streamline its 1990 census questionnaire, and reported that last March, 48,000 households across America got a sneak preview of some of the questions the bureau is planning to ask in its count of population and housing.
The study, he said, will encompass 106 million housing units.
Mobile Home Living
Picked to represent a scientific sample of the entire population, the homes tested received different versions of the short- and long-form census questionnaire through the mail.
"New questions will relate to housing costs of living in mobile homes. We want to know, for instance, whether people own or rent the land, whether they pay extra fees for hook-up, and so on," Young said.
"In some parts of the country, mobile homes are not considered real property but as personal property, and are not taxed as real estate.
"We are also interested in having the same kind of cost information about condominiums, a set of significant statistics in our changing society that we have not been able to provide before."
Census Revealed Trends
Asked how many people respond to census questionnaires, Young reported an 83% response for the last census in 1980. "But we do follow up on the remainder, so that our survey is quite comprehensive."
The 1980 census revealed a number of important trends. Fulfillment of the American dream of home ownership is gradually dimming for young people, who 15 years ago could afford a small house of their own, Young said.
He also reported that households consisting of persons living alone with non-relatives are on the rise and are expected to account for up to 37% of all households by the 1990 census report.
"The major portion of the projected increase in households over the next 15 years is expected to occur among households in the 35-to-54-age bracket, a reflection of the aging baby boom population. Some elderly people may also team up and increase those household figures," Young said.
The veteran statistician, who prefers to be called a "quantitative historian," said demographic and economic factors have changed the housing picture dramatically in the last few decades.
Historically, population census data from 1890 to 1930 showed that the proportion of homes that were owner occupied varied between 45% and 48%. The first housing census in 1940 reflected the effects of the Depression of the 1930s and showed a decline to 43.6%.
Young said that governmental programs initiated in the 1930s and 1940s to encourage home ownership were effective, "and the 1950 census found us a nation of homeowners with an owner occupancy rate of 55.5%.
"What we see now, after an owner occupancy increase in the 1960s to 61.9%, is a tapering off in the rate of increase." He said that despite the slower rate of increase, home ownership rose to 64.4% in 1980.
Young emphasized the need is to increase public awareness and understanding of what census taking is all about, that it is "not threatening, that it does not invade an individual's privacy and that it is the tool by which individuals can be guided in every imaginable form of business venture."