Federal government releases 1950 census following statutory 72-year delay

Census offers broad overview of decadal survey, but hard data is held for nearly three-quarters of century.

Updated: April 2, 2022 - 10:22am

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The U.S. federal government on Friday released the data files of the 1950 United States census, offering journalists, statisticians and average Americans a glimpse of the country’s demographics at a critical juncture in its history.

The National Archives released the data at midnight on Apr. 1. The agency said in a press release that “following every decennial census, the Census Bureau transfers the records to NARA for permanent storage,” after which “NARA disseminates the records to the public 72 years later based on the ‘72-Year Rule’.”

That rule—made for privacy reasons—was originally decided upon by the directors of the Census Bureau and the National Archives before being made official in the U.S. code in the late 1970s. 

The National Archives offers a searchable database of the census results, including “population schedules” and district maps. 

The next census results, those of 1960, will be released in 2032.