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1960 Census data, forwarded

This is a cross posting of a message on the listserv ERECS-L, a narrative
written by NARA Center for Electronic Records staff

From: 	Tom Ruller <tom@unix6.nysed.gov>
To:	Multiple recipients of list ERECS-L <ERECS-L@CNSIB...
Date: 	4/15/96 12:27pm
Subject: 	1960 Census Myths and Facts--Explained (fwd)

Date: Mon, 15 Apr 96 12:11:47 EDT
From: Peter Graham, RUL <psgraham@gandalf.rutgers.edu>
Subject: 1960 Census Myths and Facts--Explained

From:  Peter Graham, Rutgers University Libraries

The following is forwarded with the kind permission of Margaret Adams,
arranged by Don Waters.  --pg

Date: 4/3/96 7:34 PM
From: Margaret Adams

As I wrote to you yesterday, Thomas Brown and I have collaborated to
prepare a narrative that describes what happened to data from the 1960
Census.  It follows.  It is based upon our review of correspondence,
memoranda, and records schedules that are on file at the Center for
Electronic Records, National Archives and Records Administration.  All of
this material is open for public inspection.

Thank you again for following up on the comments I sent last November
on the draft CPA/RLG Task Force Report on Digital Archiving.  Your
questions provided us with an opportunity to prepare this narrative.  By
so doing we hope that we have laid to rest the questions that abound
about  data from the 1960 Census.   Please feel free to contact me again
with any further questions.  I look forward to the final CPA/RLG Task
Force Report on Digital Archiviging.  M.O. Adams (301-713-6645, x228)

To prepare a historical narrative on data from the 1960 Census, Margaret
O. Adams and Thomas E. Brown, Assistant Chief and Chief,
respectively, Archival Services Branch, Center for Electronic Records,
National Archives and Records Administration reviewed
correspondence, memoranda, and records schedules at the Center.
This material is open for public inspection.

Among the records we consulted is correspondence between the Chief
of the Administrative Services Division at the Bureau of the Census and
the Director of the [then] Machine Readable Archives Division at the
National Archives during the 1970s, and related memoranda.  In addition,
a transcript of an April 1961 "training lecture" by Richard A. Jacobs,
reporting on a National Archives study of practices of agencies of the
federal government regarding their use of electronic data processing
equipment and the records disposition problems which arise from these
operations, provides further background.

By 1961 staff at the National Archives knew that the Bureau of the
Census had used a computer for tabulating the 1960 Census and that
summary tape files from this activity were a basic product of the
Census.  They also knew that the Bureau microfilmed the original Census
schedules and were preserving them.  Jacobs' lecture mentions that the
Bureau  planned to retain 1960 summary tape files (i.e., microaggregation
files) for, among other reasons, statistical comparison with the 1970
Census.  He adds "...presumably, like the punch cards for earlier
censuses, [these tapes] will lose their usefulness in time." (Jacobs, p. 5)
This reflects a general practice at the time in many agencies of the
federal government.  In 1939, an advisory committee at the National
Archives had determined that in the case of punch card records, federal
agencies (rather than archivists) could determine whether the records
had historical value and should be preserved.  Following this decision,
few agencies retained any punch card records for historical purposes.
At the Bureau of the Census, the practice became one of disposing of
basic microdata records on punch cards once derivative data were
produced.  (Adams discusses this issue in a forthcoming article in the
American Archivist.)

An internal 1963 Bureau of the Census technical memorandum  listed
tape files produced in connection with the 1960 Census of Population
and Housing that the Bureau was retaining in "permanent data storage."
It did not list any files with basic microdata records from the 100 percent
Census.  This seems consistent with Jacobs' assessment.  It is also not
surprising, given what National Archives staff had learned when they
interviewed Bureau of the Census personnel for the study mentioned
above. The Bureau's records officer mentioned that he considered that
both punch cards and magnetic tapes were "non-record," but he also
described tape files that the Bureau was retaining because of potential
need for them for programmatic purposes.

Thus the discussion of any loss of 1960 Census data must focus on the
tape files reported in 1963 to have been in "permanent data storage."  In
1975, another internal Bureau of the Census technical memorandum
indicated that the Bureau had retained data files from the 1960 Census
on 7,297 tapes "readable" with UNIVAC II-A tape drives, 1,678 "readable"
with UNIVAC III-A tape drives, and 146 tapes "readable" with [industry]
compatible tape drives.

Following consultation with staff of the National Archives, the Bureau
outlined in August 1975 a plan to provide for the "adequate retention of
the 1960 data."  The Census Bureau would retain 132 of the [industry]
compatible tapes and would copy the tape files on 1,273 of the III-A
tapes onto [industry] compatible tapes.  National Archives staff informally
agreed to the plan.

The issue was the 7,297 II-A tapes.  All of the aprochyrphal stories
about loss of 1960 Census data have to do with the 1960 derivative data
that the Bureau stored on tapes readable only by UNIVAC II-A tape
drives, II-A (or, 2A) tapes.  During 1975 and 1976, a member of the
National Archives' Machine Readable Archives Division reviewed the
microaggregation or derivative files that the Bureau of the Census had
preserved from the 1960 Census on these II-A tapes.  This review
identified seven series of low-level microaggregations as having
long-term value to compensate for the lack of basic microdata records
from the 100 percent Census.  The seven series resided on 642 of the
II-A tapes which the Census Bureau agreed to migrate to [industry]
compatible tapes.  But by this time, the Univac II-A tape drives were
obsolete, and thus the preservation of these tapes presented a major
engineering challenge.  Despite the challenge, the Census staff
prevailed.  By 1979, the Census Bureau had successfully completed the
copying of 640 of the 642 II-A tapes onto 178 [industry] compatible tapes.
 The two II-A tapes not copied could not be found.  The missing tapes
had 7,488 records, or about .5 percent of the total of approximately 1.5
million records on all II-A tapes that had been identified as having
long-term value.  Of the 640 tapes which were located, only 1,575
records (or less than .2 percent of the total number of valuable records
on II-A tapes) could not be copied because of deterioration.  Hence a
small volume of records from the 1960 Census was lost, and this
occurred because of inadequate inventory control and because of the
physical deterioration of a minuscule number of records.

Most of the data extant from the 1960 Census, even in the
microaggregations, are restricted from public disclosure for 72 years (or
until 2032) by Title 13, U.S. Code.  Because of this reason, the Census
Bureau has not formally transferred to the National Archives data from
the 1960 Census, excepting the 1960 public use microdata sample files.
Consequently, inquiries into the current technological status of the
microaggregations from the 1960 Census should be directed to the
Census Bureau.

Margaret O. Adams
Thomas E. Brown
April 3, 1996

Date: Wed, 03 Apr 1996 18:39:17 -0400
From: Margaret Adams <margaret.adams@arch2.nara.gov>
To: donald.waters@yale.edu
Subject:  Re: Comments on draft report -Reply

Peter Graham    psgraham@gandalf.rutgers.edu    Rutgers University
169 College Ave., New Brunswick, NJ 08903   (908)445-5908; fax

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