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Historical Statistics of the United States

Historical Statistics | Editors | Chapter Outline | Speech on 1949 HSUS

The goal of the project is to produce an updated, expanded, and thoroughly revised edition in print and electronic formats of various historical statistics of the United States, to be collected from the Historical Statistics of the United States, Millennial Edition, Colonial Times to The Present (Cambridge University Press).

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The Historical Statistics of the United States was first published in 1949 by the Bureau of the Census with the advice and assistance of the Social Science Research Council. A second and much larger edition appeared in 1960 under the same auspices. The third edition, Historical Statistics of the United States, Colonial Times to 1970, Bicentennial Edition, was published by the Bureau in 1975 and was expanded to two volumes. In the year 2005 Cambridge University Press will publish the fourth, millennial, edition of this classic reference work.

This work will be undertaken with the cooperation of the U.S. Bureau of the Census. The Director of the Census, Martha E. Riche, and the Chief of the Compendia Division of the Bureau, Glenn W. King, have agreed to provide assistance and advice to the project, but no Census Bureau funds will be spent. The project is a public/private collaboration that will continue the tradition of active involvement of the scholarly community in the preparation of this reference. Partial financial support has been granted by the National Science Foundation, several universities and private foundations. Publication will be underwritten by Cambridge University Press.

As with the previous editions the compilation will be restricted to annual, time-series data with national coverage. All of the broad subject areas presently covered by the Statistical Abstract of the United States will be included, except that no attempt will be made to include comparative international statistics. Several additional subject areas are being considered for inclusion. Wherever possible the data series in the 1975 edition will be updated to the most recently available data. While some data series in the 1975 edition may be dropped because they have been superseded by superior series, the intent is to preserve the depth and comprehensiveness of the third edition. Additional series will be incorporated into the new edition to reflect the progress historical science has made in the intervening quarter century and to include coverage of new and newly-important phenomena.

The millennial edition will be issued in two formats: a two-volume hard-cover print edition with approximately a twenty-percent increase in material; and an electronic machine readable version with approximately double the amount of data contained in the 1975 edition. The proposed "look and feel" of each edition is described below.

We envision that the hard-cover version of the millennial edition will resemble in many ways the 1975 edition. The chapter structure will be similar to, but not identical with, that of the Bicentennial Edition. Each chapter will be the responsibility of an author/editor (Chapter Editor) chosen as a distinguished and reliable expert on the topic. Unlike the previous editions, each chapter will be signed by the author. Most of the chapters will be divided into sub-chapters which may or may not be authored by an Associate Chapter Editor. The Associate Chapter Editors will also be identified.

One of the strengths of the 1975 edition is the clear and precise source notes to each of the tables. We intend to retain this feature and the Chapter Editors and Associates will be asked to revise and update the original notes to the same standards as the earlier edition. Improved standards of bibliographic citation will be introduced. Information about sources, both printed and electronic, for updating the data will be provided.

As a new feature, each Chapter Editor will be asked to provide a chapter overview designed to assist the lay reader in appreciating the origins, meaning, and historical significance of the data in the tables. These essays will also convey any necessary warnings and cautions about the reliability of the data, comment on significant scholarly disputes, and refer to other publications where the interested user may explore the issues further, find more detailed data, or examine alternative data series not included in the volume.

While the traditional chapter structure will be retained, special editors will be recruited to insure that adequate coverage of "cross-cutting" topics is provided. Among these cross-cutting topics are gender, race, childhood, old age, governmental regulation, and the globalization of the economy and society. Among the new topic areas to be covered or covered more extensively will be slavery; U.S. territories, possessions, and outlying areas; time use; futures markets; household composition and structure; opinion and election polling; business history; environmental quality; credit cards; computers; and internet communications. Where relevant, tables will be added to list the dates of landmark pieces of legislation, court decisions, inventions, and other economically or socially significant events.

The electronic edition is presently envisioned as a web-based or CD-based product, although at the rapid pace of technological development for electronic-data handling it is quite possible that a newer, superior format will be used. In any case, the electronic edition will come with an encyclopedia-type search engine. The user will be able to locate data by typing in a few key words to bring up a menu of possible alternatives. Once a table is selected, the screen will display a facsimile of the printed page from the hard-cover edition which, if desired, could be printed. Buttons will be provided to enable the user to view, read, and/or print the footnotes, and/or source notes for any table or series, to see the editor's comments on the data (from the introductory essay), or to provide a definition of technical words. Data and text could also be highlighted by the user for downloading onto a hard disk in one of many alternative formats. Spreadsheet capabilities will be provided to permit the arithmetic manipulation of data and to enable the display of a line plot, scatter diagram, bar chart, or the like.

Another feature of the electronic edition is the incorporation of data that will not be part of the printed edition. These data will be "electronically hidden" behind the data that is published in the print edition. So, for example, a click on the appropriate button might reveal a disaggregation of the series by race and gender, or provide a regional breakdown, or provide an alternative series. Yet another feature will allow the user to automatically deflate or scale a series using a price index, a population series (to obtain per capita values), a total from the same table, or any other series in the volume selected by the user. Thus a table on, say, the number of post offices could be quickly and effortlessly converted into a table showing the number of post offices per capita.

Other features may be added to the software. For example, hyperlinks might allow the user to jump to related topics, to specially commissioned historical essays, to a time-line of significant events, or other features. The possibilities are endless. However the goal is to create a user-friendly working tool that will be of use to the research scholar, the serious student, and the library client.

Historical Statistics | Editors | Chapter Outline | Speech on 1949 HSUS

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