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United States Unemployment Census, November 16-20. ... Fill in and mail a report card if you are unemployed or partly employed..., 1937?

Drawing Uncle Sam helping an older couple fill out unemployment forms.

circa 1937
Poster

United States Unemployment Census, November 16-20. ... Fill in and mail a report card if you are unemployed or partly employed..., 1937?, Poster collection, Hoover Institution Library & Archives, https://digitalcollections.hoover.org/objects/41472

The source “United States Unemployment Census, November 16 – 20.” is a poster produced by the United States Employment Service as part of the Census Act of 1937. The first part of the Census Act was voluntary registration using mail-in postcards; the second part was a check of the data provided by the postcards through a house-to-house survey of households carried out by postal carriers in select areas.

Questions

  1.  How was data collected on unemployment in 1937?

a.  Who collected the data? How was the data collected? Who was surveyed about unemployment? What information was collected from those surveyed?

 

  1. Based on how the data was collected in 1937, what are limitations of the unemployment numbers?

  2. What does this source tell you about Source 2?

  3. What prior knowledge do you have about the US economy in the 1930s? Why might the US government specifically issue an Act of Congress to collect unemployment data in 1937?

Students will use this source to investigate how data on unemployment was collected historically through the census, to analyze limitations of this type of data collection, and to emphasize the importance of knowing how data is collected when using it to tell the story of the economy.

Intended to determine the number of representatives each state would have in the House of Representatives, the first census in 1790 collected information on population by age and gender. However, the need for additional information about the U. population and economy grew. By the 1880s employment status was documented through the census. On August 30, 1937, as a response to the Great Depression and a secondary recession that occurred despite New Deal programs, the United States Congress passed an act for an interim census, the National Unemployment Census. In doing so, Congress aimed “to aid in the formation of a program of reemployment, social security and unemployment relief for the people of the United States.” The first part of the Census Act was voluntary registration via mail-in postcards; the second part, called the Enumerated Check Census, was a check of the data provided by the postcards through a house-to-house survey of households carried out by postal carriers in select areas. This act added on to the ongoing census data collection.

 

The key component of this source is to illustrate how data was originally collected to document unemployment and the limitations of this mode of data collection. This source reveals data collection was voluntary through the unemployment postcard. Because the registration via a postcard was voluntary, the government had to promote it. This source shows a follow-up promotion to the announcement to the American people on November 14, 1937, by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Fireside Chat 11, “On the Unemployment Census.”

United States Unemployment Census, November 16 – 20 ... Drop in Any Mail Box … Fill in and MAIL a Report Card if you are unemployed or partly unemployed ….