1860 US Census

The United States Census of 1860 was the eighth Census conducted in the United States. It determined the population of the United States to be 31,443,321 — an increase of 35.4 percent over the 23,191,875 persons enumerated during the 1850 Census. The total population included 3,953,761 slaves.

By the time the 1860 census returns were ready for tabulation, the nation was sinking into the American Civil War. As a result, Census Superintendent Joseph C. G. Kennedy and his staff produced only an abbreviated set of reports, which included no graphic or cartographic representations. This new round of statistics did allow the Census staff to produce a cartographic display, including preparing maps of Southern states for Union field commanders. These maps displayed militarily vital topics, including white population, slave population, predominant agricultural products (by county), and rail and post-road transportation routes.

Census questions[]

The 1860 census collected the following information[1]:

  • name
  • address
  • age
  • sex
  • color (white, black or mulatto) for each person
  • whether deaf and dumb, blind, insane or idiotic
  • value of real estate and of personal estate owned (required of all free persons)
  • profession, occupation or trade of each male and female over 15 years of age
  • place (state, territory or country) of birth
  • whether married within the year
  • whether attended school within the year
  • whether unable to read and write (for persons over 20)
  • whether a pauper or convict

Full documentation for the 1860 population census, including census forms and enumerator instructions, is available from the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series.

Data availability[]

Microdata from the 1860 population census are freely available through the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series. Aggregate data for small areas, together with compatible cartographic boundary files, can be downloaded from the National Historical Geographic Information System.

Common Occupations[]

Data reveals that Farmers (owners and tenants) made up nearly 10% of utilized occupations. Also, farm laborers (wage workers) represent the next highest percent with 3.2%, followed by general laborers at 3.0%.[2] Although more localized data set of Essex, MA suggests that there were other common occupations. For women a large section of the labor force was devoted to shoe-binding, while for men the common occupations were farming and shoe-making. [3] This heavy demand of shoe related labor implies a high demand for rigorous physical labor, as supported by the data of very large amounts of farm related work as compared to most other labor options. IPUMS' data also notes that the percent of population that had been enrolled in school or marked as "Student" was at the level of 0.2%. This demonstrates a small rate of growth if any of the Human Capital of the time. Human Capital can be defined as the skill set a worker has to apply to the labor force, which can increase total output through increased efficiency.

Path to the Civil War[]

In 1861 the American Civil War began, which has some roots with economic disagreements along with social implications. With the invention of the cotton gin in 1793, a schism of economic cultures began to develop between the North and the South. The North had developed an urban centered culture that focused more on manufacturing, while the increased productivity of cotton in the rural South led it to become an almost single crop region. This increased the demand of slavery because of its extremely low costs of labor, which then increased the profits further. As the data shows, since a large fraction of the population was centralized in agriculture a removal of slavery would increase costs of cotton, and drastically decrease profits of the South.[4] Two economic based reasons that the South held onto the social idea of slavery are as follows:

  • slaves were a profitable use of capital compared to other uses
  • it was viable indefinitely without forces such as the Civil War

A slave holder could hold vast amounts of wealth and receive high rates of return compared to other uses of capital. Also, the institution of slavery would remain profitable into the future. The earning of a slave would have been estimated to be 50% greater in 1890.[5] Considering that the data shows a large amount of reliance on the part of the South for agriculture, it is not surprising that there would be such resistance to a drastic change. With this census, as opposed to the next decades, much of Southern wealth was held as slaves because they were considered legally property. Analogous to today where wealth is housed in stocks, factories, and other forms of property, the South received a huge loss of total wealth and assets when the civil war ended.

See also[]


  1. ^ "Library Bibliography Bulletin 88, New York State Census Records, 1790-1925". New York State Library. October 1981. pp. 44 (p. 50 of PDF). 
  2. ^ "IPUMS 1860 Census Data". IPUMS Data Collection. Retrieved 1 March 2011. 
  3. ^ Wilhelm, Kurt. "Essex, MA Census 1860". 1860 Federal Census. Retrieved 27 February 2011. 
  4. ^ Kelly, Martin. "Top Five Causes of the Civil War". Leading up to Secession and the Civil War. Retrieved 1 March 2011. 
  5. ^ Gunderson, Gerald (December 1974). "The Origin of the American Civil War". The Journal of Economic History 34 (4): 915–950. Retrieved on 1 March 2011. 

External links[]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:

This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at 1860 United States Census. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.