In 1990 LGBT groups lauded a new census question while Hispanic groups contested the wording of another

1990 census ‘short form’ as it appeared in the Feb. 12, 1990 edition of The Dallas Morning News. Editor’s note: Take a look back into The Dallas Morning News Archives and read more current stories about the 2020 census here .

In the coming months, North Texans will receive invitations to fill out their census forms either online or through the mail . This year marks the first time the federal government will use an online version of the census questionnaire.

The 1990 census also had a few firsts. One of the most significant changes from previous years was the question that allowed for people to indicate whether they lived with an “unmarried partner.”

LGBT groups lauded the inclusion of this question as a step in the right direction to gain more “political clout.” It marked the "first time in the history of the country that the government [had] a method for collecting information on gay and lesbian family unions.” However, census officials claimed that the original purpose behind the question was to count the number of heterosexual couples who were not married — a 1988 survey found that around 2.6 million unmarried males and females lived together. Feb. 12, 1990 (The Dallas Morning News) 1990 was also the first year that people were asked on the census questionnaire whether they had any stepchildren or grandchildren living in their home, whether they had a second mortgage on their house, whether they had pension income, and what time they would leave for work and how long it would take them to get there.

Not everyone was content with the final version of the census questionnaire though. The General Accounting Office reported that the forms were too long and contained some irrelevant questions. There were also those who felt some of the questions were intrusive.

There was also debate surrounding the race question. The 1990 census omitted Hispanic from the list of races, due to it generally being considered an ethnicity, opting instead to include a question further down that asked “Is this person of Spanish/Hispanic origin?”

Hispanic groups raised concerns that the wording of this question could cause confusion among those filling out the form. However, a Census Bureau official defended the question, saying “the census questions about race and Spanish/Hispanic origin will, in fact, yield a more precise count of Hispanics.”

Scroll over the image below to get a close-up look at the 1990 census questionnaire ‘Short Form’. Find the full article on page 13 A of the Feb. 12, 1990 issue of The Dallas Morning News . Interested in finding more past census coverage? Become a Dallas Morning News Plus subscriber at archives.dallasnews.com .