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January 31, 1966

This U. S. A.: An Unexpected Family Portrait of 194,067,296 Americans Drawn from the Census

JAMA. 1966;195(5):399. doi:10.1001/jama.1966.03100050107048

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Since large masses of statistics are usually dull, and the US Census compiles an exceptionally large mass, we might expect that a book about the census would be extremely dull. Instead, this book by Wattenberg, a journalist, writing in collaboration with Scammon, a social scientist and former director of the census, is fascinating. In a light, easy-to-read style, with occasional touches of humor, the authors present significant facts and some interpretations.

Much of the material is familiar— population expansion, rising income and living standards, increasing educational level—but much is unexpected. For example, everyone has heard about the growing proportion of the elderly in the population (people over 65 were 2.5% in 1850, 9.2% in 1960) but did you realize that the figures show this trend will not continue? The present high percentage is due largely to heavy immigration before World War I, mostly young people, now elderly. Again, there is

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