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Director of the United States Census Bureau

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Director of the Bureau of the Census
Seal of the United States Census Bureau.svg
Robert Santos, Census Director 2.jpg
Robert Santos
since January 5, 2022
AppointerPresident of the United States

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. The current director is Robert Santos.

History of the office

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

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

Secretaries of State

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 Image Name Census year
Thomas Jefferson 3x4.jpg
Thomas Jefferson 1790
CJ Marshall copy.png
John Marshall 1800
Robert Smith SecNavy (cropped).jpg
Robert Smith 1810
Unsuccessful 1828.jpg
John Quincy Adams 1820
Martin Van Buren by Mathew Brady c1855-58 (cropped).jpg
Martin Van Buren 1830

Superintending Clerks of the Census

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 Image Name In office
William Augustus Weaver.jpg
William Augustus Weaver 1840
Joseph Camp Griffith Kennedy.jpg
Joseph Camp Griffith Kennedy 1850–1853
J. D. B. De Bow engraved by William G. Jackman.jpg
James Dunwoody Brownson DeBow 1853–1855
Joseph Camp Griffith Kennedy.jpg
Joseph Camp Griffith Kennedy 1860–1865

Superintendents of the Census

Order Image Name In office
Francis A Walker MIT 2.jpg
Francis Amasa Walker 1870
Francis A Walker MIT 2.jpg
Francis Amasa Walker 1879–1881
Charles W. Seaton.jpg
Charles W. Seaton 1881–1885
Robert Percival Porter 1889–1893
Carroll D. Wright.jpg
Carroll D. Wright 1893–1897
William Rush Merriam 1899–1902

Directors of the Census Bureau

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

Order Image Name In office
William Rush Merriam 1902–1903
S.N.D. North.jpg
Simon Newton Dexter North 1903–1909
E. Dana Durand, 8-19-21 LCCN2016845620 (cropped).tif
Edward Dana Durand 1909–1913
William Julius Harris.jpg
William J. Harris 1913–1915
ROGERS, SAMUEL L. HONORABLE LCCN2016859022 (cropped).jpg
Samuel Lyle Rogers 1915–1921
William Mott Steuart 1921–1933
William Lane Austin.jpg
William Lane Austin 1933–1941
8 James Clyde Capt 1941–1949
Roy V. Peel.jpg
Roy Victor Peel 1950–1953
10 Robert Wilbur Burgess 1953–1961
Richard Scammon.jpg
Richard M. Scammon 1961–1965
A. Ross Eckler.jpg
A. Ross Eckler 1965–1969
Portrait photo of USCB Director George Hay Brown.jpg
George Hay Brown 1969–1973
Vincent Barabba Census.jpg
Vincent Barabba 1973–1976
15 Manuel D. Plotkin 1977–1979
Vincent Barabba Census.jpg
Vincent Barabba 1979–1981
Bruce Chapman census.jpg
Bruce Chapman 1981–1983
John G Keane.jpg
John G. Keane 1984–1987
Barbara Everitt Bryant.jpg
Barbara Everitt Bryant 1989–1993
Martha Farnsworth Riche.jpg
Martha Farnsworth Riche October 1994 – January 1998
James F. Holmes census.jpg
James Holmes [6] January 1998 – October 1998
Kenneth Prewitt.jpg
Kenneth Prewitt 1998–2001
Charles Kincannon.png
Charles Louis Kincannon March 13, 2002 – January 3, 2008
Steve Murdock.jpg
Steve H. Murdock January 4, 2008 – January 9, 2009
Thomas Mesenbourg photo as acting director of United States Census Bureau, circa 2012.jpg
Thomas Mesenbourg January 9, 2009 - July 15, 2009
Robert Groves, official Census photo portrait.jpg
Robert M. Groves July 15, 2009 – August 11, 2012
Thomas Mesenbourg photo as acting director of United States Census Bureau, circa 2012.jpg
Thomas Mesenbourg August 11, 2012 - August 8, 2013
John H. Thompson census.jpg
John H. Thompson August 8, 2013 – June 30, 2017
Ron Jarmin official photo.jpg
Ron Jarmin June 30, 2017 – January 7, 2019
Steve Dillingham official photo (cropped).jpg
Steven Dillingham January 7, 2019 – January 20, 2021
Ron Jarmin official photo.jpg
Ron Jarmin January 20, 2021 – January 5, 2022
Robert Santos, Census Director 2.jpg
Robert Santos January 5, 2022 – Present


  1. ^ a b c d e "Director Biographies - History - U.S. Census Bureau".
  2. ^
  3. ^ "History:Directors 1790 - 1810". Archived from the original on 2008-12-30.
  4. ^ "History:Directors 1840 - 1865". Archived from the original on 2008-04-27.
  5. ^ a b "History:Directors 1870 - 1893". Archived from the original on 2008-04-13. Retrieved 2017-12-06.
  6. ^ James Holmes, who is African American, was named acting director on a temporary basis in 1998 after the resignation of Martha Riche. Robert Santos is confirmed as Census Bureau's first Latino director, Associated Press, Nov 5, 2021
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Director of the United States Census Bureau
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