Director of the United States Census Bureau

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Steven Dillingham, Director of the U.S. Census Bureau

The Director of the Bureau of the Census is the chief administrator of the United States Census Bureau (USCB). The officeholder is appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the United States Senate and assisted by the Deputy Director of the United States Census Bureau.

History of the office[edit]

The nominal head of the early censuses was the Secretary of State, but management responsibility was actually devolved to the U.S. marshal in each state. These marshals collected and tabulated their own returns; the Secretary of State only oversaw the final compilation and tabulation of the data.[1]

By 1840, the increasing standardization of census questionnaires and the enumeration process made it clear that more leadership at the federal level was necessary. Secretary of State John Forsyth appointed William Augustus Weaver as the first "superintending clerk of the census" in that year. Weaver and his successors oversaw the technical aspects of the census, including designing questionnaires, and more closely managed the tabulation process.[1]

By 1870, the leader of the Census Office was the "superintendent of the census." The superintendent oversaw the entire census-taking process, and usually held the position from a year before the census until the final tabulations had been published.[1]

After the Census Office became a permanent agency in 1902, the first director was the incumbent superintendent, William Rush Merriam. He set the standard for many directors of the U.S. Census Bureau over the next hundred years by focusing on external issues such as congressional testimony and leaving technical operations to the experts.[1]

In 2012, the Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act of 2011[2] set the term for the Census Bureau director at five years; the director can serve for up to two terms. The Census director must also "have a demonstrated ability in managing large organizations and experience in the collection, analysis, and use of statistical data."

Chronology of Census Bureau leadership[edit]

The following is a chronological list of those who supervised the Census of the United States.[1]

Secretaries of State[edit]

The Secretary of State was the nominal director of the first five censuses, responsible for supervision and compilation of each U.S. marshal's tabulation. In reality, these cabinet officers did very little actual directing. The authorizing legislation for most early censuses was very specific, and the marshals oversaw the actual enumeration process.[3]

Order Name Term
1 Thomas Jefferson 1790
2 John Marshall 1800
3 Robert Smith 1810
4 John Quincy Adams 1820
5 Martin Van Buren 1830

Superintending Clerks of the Census[edit]

Beginning in 1840 and continuing for the succeeding three censuses, operations and oversight were directed by a superintending clerk of the census.[4] Also, the Census Office shut down after it finished publishing the results of each census. Because of this, there were several periods in the nineteenth century in which there was no director.[5]

Order Name Term
1 William Augustus Weaver 1840
2 Joseph Camp Griffith Kennedy 1850–1853
3 James Dunwoody Brownson DeBow 1853–1855
4 Joseph Camp Griffith Kennedy 1860–1865

Superintendents of the Census[edit]

Order Name Term
1 Francis Amasa Walker 1870
2 Francis Amasa Walker 1879–1881
3 Charles W. Seaton 1881–1885
4 Robert Percival Porter 1889–1893
5 Carroll D. Wright 1893–1897
6 William Rush Merriam 1899–1902

Directors of the Census Bureau[edit]

The Census Bureau became a permanent agency in 1902.[5]

Order Name Term
1 William Rush Merriam 1902–1903
2 Simon Newton Dexter North 1903–1909
3 Edward Dana Durand 1909–1913
4 William J. Harris 1913–1915
5 Samuel Lyle Rogers 1915–1921
6 William Mott Steuart 1921–1933
7 William Lane Austin 1933–1941
8 James Clyde Capt 1941–1949
9 Roy Victor Peel 1950–1953
10 Robert Wilbur Burgess 1953–1961
11 Richard M. Scammon 1961–1965
12 A. Ross Eckler 1965–1969
13 George Hay Brown 1969–1973
14 Vincent Barabba 1973–1976
15 Manuel D. Plotkin 1977–1979
Vincent Barabba 1979–1981
16 Bruce Chapman 1981–1983
17 John G. Keane 1984–1987
18 Barbara Everitt Bryant 1989–1993
19 Martha Farnsworth Riche 1994–1998
20 Kenneth Prewitt 1998–2001
21 Charles Louis Kincannon 2002–2008
22 Steve H. Murdock 2008–2009
23 Robert M. Groves 2009–2012
24 John H. Thompson 2013–June 30, 2017
25 Ron Jarmin (acting) June 30, 2017–January 7, 2019
26 Steven Dillingham January 7, 2019–Present


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  5. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-04-13. Retrieved 2017-12-06.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)