City Planning and the U.S. Census, 1910 to 1960

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Journal Article
Journal of Planning History, 2008, 7 (4), pp. 263 - 294
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Although planners rely on census data for many tasks, they are often frustrated by its limitations. This article examines the evolution of this ambiguous relationship (during the period 1910 to 1960) through four roughly chronological development stages. Data were seen first as an engine of social reform, then as the basis for a science of planning, next as a way to manage social and economic crisis, and finally as a way to justify government decisions. The article concludes that the limitations of official statistics are historically contingent, a result of Congress's lack of support, the federal bureaucracy's indifference to spatially detailed data, and planners' abandonment of the argument. The Journal of Planning History Prize Winners (2009) Awarded to the best article published in the Journal of Planning History: Heather MacDonald, "City Planning and the U.S. Census 1910 to 1960," Journal of Planning History 7:4 (Nov. 2008).
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