Popular Science Monthly/Volume 41/August 1892/Lessons from the Census VII

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1214859Popular Science Monthly Volume 41 August 1892 — Lessons from the Census VII1892Carroll Davidson Wright





THE statistics of families and dwellings, as shown by a census, offer opportunities for the study of social conditions in some very important directions. The ratio of dwellings to families, the number of persons to a dwelling, and the average size of families are all facts of the highest importance in considering the condition of the people. Such statistics also answer the question whether families are holding their own as to size, and allied with modern facts relative to the number of children born and living they enable one to determine the composition of the population and whether its various elements are being preserved with reasonable integrity.

The following short table shows the total number of families and persons to a family, by geographical divisions, in the United States, June 1, 1890:

Total Families and Persons to a Family, by Geographical Divisions.

number of families. persons to a family.
1890. 1880. 1870. 1860. 1850. 1890. 1880. 1870. 1860. 1850.
North Atlantic 3,712,242 3,023,741 2,497,494 2,048,315 1,582,978 4·69 4·80 4·92 5·17 5·45
South Atlantic 1,687,767 1,463,361 1,132,621 652,396 537,857 5·25 5·19 5·17 5·40 5·61
North Central 4,598,605 3,389,017 2,480,311 1,683,190 934,873 4·86 5·12 5·23 5·34 5·69
South Central 2,071,120 1,697,550 1,242,411 684,024 499,767 5·30 5·25 5·18 5·51 5·70
Western 620,418 372,247 226,526 143,009 42,765 4·88 4·75 4·37 4·33 4·18
The United States 12,690,152 9,945,916 7,579,363 5,210,934 3,598,240 4·94 5·04 5·09 5·28 5·55

The number of families increased, from 1880 to 1890, 27·59 per cent; from 1870 to 1880, 21·22 per cent; from 1860 to 1870, 45·45 per cent; and from 1850 to 1860, 44·82 per cent.

The question is often asked, when the total number of families and the size of families under censuses are considered, what the word "family" really means. For census purposes the word "family" comprehends not only the real, normal family, as it is commonly understood—that is, consisting of the husband, wife, children, and immediate dependents like relatives and servants—but it comprehends all persons living alone where they maintain their own establishments, and all larger aggregations of people subject to one common supervision, such as the inmates of hotels, hospitals, prisons, asylums, etc. So in nearly all Federal and State censuses in this country and all censuses abroad the family has comprehended hotels, boarding-houses, lodging-houses, penal and reformatory institutions, and every aggregation of individuals living under one roof, or has related in some way, either arbitrarily or otherwise, to one head. The inmates of a great hotel, or a great college, or a prison constitute, for census purposes, a family. It would seem at first thought that this artificial extension of the composition of the family would have a disturbing influence upon the average size of the family, but a careful analysis of results indicates that such influence is very slight. In the census of Massachusetts for 1885, the census family in its average size consisted of 4·58 persons. The Massachusetts State census offered facilities for ascertaining just the effect of considering institutions and other bodies as families upon the normal family. Eliminating all families coming under the artificial designation, it was found that the average size of the actual normal family of Massachusetts in 1885 was 4·45. The influence, therefore, arising from the inclusion of the artificial or arbitrary family, so far as that State taken as a whole was concerned, was but ·13 per cent—that is, the difference between 4·58, the average for all families of all sizes, and 4·45, the average of the normal family alone. Practically, it makes but little difference, then, so far as great bodies of people are concerned as, for instance, the population of a State—whether the families are considered on the basis of the actual normal family or on the ordinary census basis, which includes all aggregations living under one roof or having certain relations to one head. It would not do, however, to consider this as a rule in small aggregations of people. As an illustration, Danvers, in the State of Massachusetts, contains a large asylum for the insane. The number of families in 1885, including the asylum, was 1,474, representing a population of 7,061. The average size of families on this census basis for the town of Danvers in the year named was 4·79; but, eliminating the asylum as a family, the average size of the families was 4·17, too large a variation for accurate calculations. Again, in the town of Concord, in the State named, containing the reformatory prison, the average size of the family, including the reformatory, was 5·15; excluding it, it was 4·62. Taking a college town, Wellesley, the average size of the normal family was 5·10; but, including Wellesley College, it was 6·15, or an increase of more than one person. The rule, therefore, that the average size of the family is not materially affected by including the artificial or arbitrary family does not well apply to towns and cities in which large institutions are located. For the United States the statements given by the census, which includes all arbitrary families, may fairly be taken as representing the average family.

The decrease in the size of families is a subject which causes some alarm. Taking the United States as a whole, it is found by the census figures that in 1850 the average family consisted of 5·55 persons. There has been a gradual decrease, it being in 1860 5·28, in 1870 5·09, in 1880 5·04, and in 1890 4·94. Looking at the different geographical divisions, it is found that this rule holds true except in the Western division, where the average size of the family has risen from 4·18 in 1850 to 4·88 in 1890, the increase having been steady through the intermediate decades. This result would have been expected, of course, on account of the settlement of the "West in the last few years, the population having increased rapidly and being more and more brought to the family basis instead of that of single individuals or young families settling in Western Territories. The small average size of the family in Oklahoma, now a Territory just opened for settlement, shows the influence of new settlements upon the size of the family. In Oklahoma the size of the family will increase until population becomes fairly dense, when it will follow the rule of older communities and decrease. When population becomes more or less urban in character the maximum is reached, and after that a constantly receding average will probably be shown at each succeeding census. A study of one hundred of the principal cities of the country having a population of 25,000 or more, and on the basis of 1880 and 1890, shows with but few exceptions a decrease in the average size of the family. The exceptions are chiefly in the South and West, as might be expected, and as is found regarding those two sections generally. In New York city the average size of the family has decreased from 4·96 in 1880 to 4·84 in 1890, while in Chicago the decrease has been from 5·19 to 4·99 during the same period.

It would be very gratifying if the Federal census statements as to size of families and other social features of population could be carefully verified by independent enumerations. This possibility exists in some cases where States take an independent census. I will call attention to one only, and that the State of Massachusetts, with whose statistics I am more or less familiar. The United States census just taken gives the average size of family in Massachusetts in 1870 as 477. The State census of 1875 gives the average size as 4·60. In 1880 the Federal census shows an average size of family of 4·70, and in 1890 of 4·67. The State census for 1885 gives the average size of family as 4·58. In each case the size of family as shown by the Federal census is slightly larger than that shown by the State census. It would be quite impossible to quarrel with the Federal census so far as this single comparison is concerned.

In the eleventh census a question entirely novel in Federal censuses was asked on the population schedule. This question was as follows: "Mother of how many children, and number of these children living?" This inquiry was made concerning all women who are or have been married, including those widowed or divorced. The results of this inquiry will be of the very greatest importance. It was asked in the State census of Massachusetts for 1885. The question relates to the fecundity of women, and if the tabulations are proper will give this for different nationalities. The question involves the comparative growth of the native and foreign-born population, and is a subject of very vital importance. In the Massachusetts census for 1875 a beginning was made in the direction of securing information on this point, but to a limited extent only. In that census an inquiry was made relating simply to the number of children born to each mother; but in 1885, in the State referred to, the inquiry was extended to the form just quoted. The statistics presented in the State census for 1885 confirmed the information secured in 1875 as to the relative fecundity of women, and also supplied data in the nature of vital statistics bearing directly upon the question often raised as to whether it is better to have small families, well reared, as opposed to large families of children not always brought up under the best and most healthful conditions. The figures gathered in the State of Massachusetts showed that foreign-born mothers were more prolific than native-born mothers, while at the second inquiry it was shown that the number of children of foreign-born mothers decreased relative to the time they had lived in this country; and the general results, considered on broad grounds, indicated that the mothers having purely native parentage have relatively a slightly greater proportion of their children living than the mothers having purely foreign parentage.

The effect of dense population upon the decreasing size of the family is suggested by these crude results; but, after the Federal and State censuses shall have repeated the inquiry quoted, we may be able to determine with reasonable accuracy the exact facts relative to the decrease of families. The first results under the Federal census will be chiefly valuable because from them comparisons in future censuses can be made, and from them also can be shown whether more children are brought to mature age when members of small families than when members of large families. This is an exceedingly vital question, and much light will be thrown upon it under future statistical investigations.

In discussing the number of families and the composition thereof, it is interesting always to learn the relation of persons to dwellings. The following table gives the total number of dwellings and persons to a dwelling, by geographical divisions, under the census of 1890:

Total Dwellings and Persons to a Dwelling, by Geographical Divisions.

number of dwellings. persons to a dwelling.
1890. 1880. 1870. 1860. 1850. 1890. 1880. 1870. 1860. 1850.
North Atlantic 2,962,345 2,430,182 2,103,500 1,808,435 1,390,005 5·87 5·97 5·85 5·86 6·21
South Atlantic 1,626,372 1,383,493 1,102,778 656,074 528,596 5·45 5·49 5·31 5·37 5·71
North Central 4,287,486 3,172,734 2,405,626 1,688,446 911,565 5·22 5·47 5·40 5·32 5·83
South Central 2,007,279 1,623,664 1,197,569 668,387 490,280 5·47 5·49 5·37 5·64 5·81
Western 599,836 345,739 233,360 148,350 41,891 5·05 5·11 4·24 4·17 4·27
The United States 11,483,318 8,955,812 7,042,833 4,969,692 3,362,337 5·45 5·60 5·47 5·53 5·94

An examination of the foregoing table proves that the number of persons to a dwelling is constantly decreasing, although slightly, thus indicating increased comfort on the part of the population as a whole. In 1850 there were 5·94 persons to each dwelling in the country, while in 1890 the average was 5·45. In the West, however, this statement is reversed, for in 1850 the number of persons to a dwelling was 4·27, and in 1890 it had increased to 5·05. This, as in the case of the increased size of family, shows the effects of the new settlements.

A dwelling, for census purposes, means any building or place of abode in which any person was living at the time the census was taken, whether the abode was a room above a warehouse or factory, a loft above a stable, a wigwam on the outskirts of a settlement, a hotel, a boarding or lodging house, a large tenement-house, or the dwelling-house ordinarily considered as such. On this basis the number of dwellings in 1890 had increased 28·22 per cent over the number in 1880. In 1890 there were 11,483,318 dwellings and 12,690,152 families, there thus being 10·51 per cent more families than dwellings, while in 1880 the excess was 11·06 per cent, and in 1850 it was 7·02 per cent.

It should be remembered, in making any comparison between dwellings and persons from 1850 to 1890, that in 1860 and 1870 the total number of dwellings included both occupied and unoccupied dwellings, while in 1850, 1880, and 1890 the total number of occupied dwellings only was reported. Again, in 1850 and 1860 the number of dwellings stated was for the free population only, the dwellings of the slave population in those censuses not being returned. Any figures, therefore, for 1850 to 1870, inclusive, do not afford a very fair basis of comparison. The table just given should be used in the light of these remarks.

The excess of families over dwellings in 1890, 1880, and 1850, both as regards number and per cent, is shown in the following brief table:

Excess of Families over Dwellings.

The statistics of dwellings and families already published show the classification by the number of persons and dwellings for the different States and by the United States as a whole. The following brief summary, however, by geographical divisions, is all that space will permit. This table shows the total number of persons to a dwelling, from 1 person to 11 and over:

Persons to a Dwelling, by Geographical Divisions.

The facts in the foregoing table, reduced to percentages and to a classification somewhat briefer than the foregoing summaries, give the following results:

From this table it is understood that the number of dwellings having 1 person only represents 3·22 per cent of the whole number of dwellings in the United States, while the population of such dwellings is but ·59 per cent of the total population. Dwellings containing from 2 to 6 persons represent over two thirds of all the dwellings, and about one half of the whole population. About 4·33 per cent of the dwellings contain more than 10 persons, and represent 13·59 per cent of the total population. Examining the results in this direction for twenty-eight cities, or those having a population of 100,000 and over, the Census Office presents the following tabular statement:

From this table we find that there were in New York city at the time of the last Federal census a total of 81,828 occupied dwellings. More than 50 per cent of these contain from 1 to 10 persons, and a little less than 50 per cent contain more than 10 persons. The population represented by dwellings in New York city having 10 persons or less is 250,002, or 16·50 per cent of the whole population, while the population represented by dwellings having more than 10 occupants is 1,265,299, or 83·50 per cent of the entire population.

The population of Chicago is about evenly divided between the two classes of dwellings, 50·82 per cent living in dwellings having from 1 to 10 occupants, and 49·18 per cent living in dwellings containing more than 10 persons each on the average.

In Philadelphia a very different condition of affairs is seen. Out of a total of 187,052 dwellings, which is more than twice the number of dwellings in New York city and about 50 per cent more than in Chicago, 178,839, or 95·61 per cent, of the dwellings contain 10 persons or less, and only 8,213 dwellings, or 4·39 per cent of the whole, contain more than 10 persons. Relative to population, 913,070 out of a total of 1,040,904 people in Philadelphia live in dwellings containing 10 persons or less, and this is 87·21 per cent of the total population, while only 1279 per cent of the total population, or, in round numbers, 133,888, live in dwellings having more than 10 occupants.

This is so important a subject, and one which the public de-sires so much to study, that I repeat one of the tables given in the recent census bulletin on dwellings and families. This table is for the twelve cities stated in the preceding one, and it shows the figures concerning persons in dwellings having more than 10 occupants, the per cent of dwellings having from 1 to 10 persons, from 11 to 15 persons, from 10 to 20 persons, and 21 persons and over, each, together with the population by number and per cent contained in such dwellings:

"From this table it is seen that in New York city 23,590 dwellings, or 28·83 per cent of all the dwellings, have more than 20 persons to each dwelling, and contain in the aggregate 1,010,780 persons, or 66·70 per cent of its total population. Of this number of dwellings it has been found, by a special tally for New York city, that 8,313 contain from 21 to 30 persons, 9,350 from 31 to 50 persons, 5,400 from 51 to 100 persons, and 473 over 100 persons. In Brooklyn 25·70 per cent, in Jersey City 23·53 per cent, and in Cincinnati 21·92 per cent of their total population live in dwellings containing more than 20 persons. The per cent of population in Chicago living in dwellings with more than 20 persons to a dwelling is 16·63 per cent, in St. Louis 10·14 per cent, in Boston 13·93 per cent, in Buffalo 8·09 per cent, in Newark 10·25 per cent, and in Providence 7·49 per cent. In Philadelphia only 3·41 per cent and in Baltimore but 2·55 per cent of the population are contained in dwellings with more than 20 persons."