Household Survey records
Scope and Content
A text fragment found with the Low Income Area Survey Data Cards may provide clues as to the purpose of the survey. It cites the problem of families unable to pay rental rates for decent housing, and discusses government aid for the construction of low-income housing. The text suggests that the Low Income Area Survey may have been designed to identify the scope of the problem in Los Angeles to further the case for assistance."
-families unable to pay rentals
-can not build, operate & rent dwellings for low-income families
-becomes necessary for the... adequate homes for families whose in[come]... year. This aid is projected through... construction operated through... cooperation with the United States... before Congress."
From 1936 to 1939, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) employed millions of people to carry out public work projects around the country. In 1939, WPA conducted a census of the greater Los Angeles area going door to door to collect information on each household. The household survey cards, also referred to as dwelling cards, were collected for each street address in the greater Los Angeles area. The cards document a wide variety of information ranging from the type of dwelling, the value of the property, the monthly rent or mortgage, to whether or not the unit had toilets that flushed. While these cards form the bulk of the collection, other documents include block face cards, and block lists which document the census process, as well as employee records which provide the background and skills of the census takers themselves.
A subset of the nearly half a million census cards which constitute the Works Progress Administration's 1939 household survey of greater Los Angeles. Three types of card are present: dwelling schedules (also known as census cards), block face cards, block lists.
DWELLING SCHEDULES (census cards) are by far the most numerous of the various types of cards. The vast majority are 5x7-inch cards with space on them for collecting three types of information, each type of which, in turn, is subdivided into various categories and subcategories. Specifically: ADMINISTRATIVE AND IDENTIFICATION DATA: Date, Enumerator, Street, Street no., Enumeration district, Block no., Structure no., Apartment no.; DATA ON THE ENTIRE STRUCTURE: Type of structure (single family detached, single family attached, two family side by side, two family two decker, three family three decker, four family double two decker, no. of units, apartment, business with dwelling units, other nonconverted, partially converted, completely converted), If converted (original type, year converted), Business units (none, no. of units), Exterior material (wood, brick, stone, stucco, other), Number of stories, Basement, Year built, Garage, If owner occupied (value of entire property, no. of major structures included in value, encumbrance (mortgate or land contract, no encumbrance), Persons per room & administrative data; DATA ON THIS DWELLING UNIT: Occupancy (owner, tenant, vacant), Duration (time lived here (years & months), length of vacancy (years & months), Monthly rent, Included in rent (furniture, garage, heat, hot water, light, cooking fuel, mechanical refrigeration, refrigeration fuel), Total rooms, Flush toilets, Bathing units, Running water (hot and cold, cold only, none), Heating (central steam or hot water, central warm air, other installed, none installed), Lighting (electric, gas, other), Cooking (electric, gas, other installed, none installed), Refrigeration equipment (electric, gas, ice, none), Number and age of all persons (total, under 1 year, 1-4, 5-9, 10-14, 15-19, 20-64, 65 and over), Race of household (white, negro, mexican, oriental, other), Roomers, Extra families (no. of extra families, no. of persons).
BLOCK FACE CARDS are 5x7-inch cards which were used for administrative purposes only and to track the progress of the household census, recording such information as: enumeration district no., block no., no. of sheets of form A (Block list), no. of cards of form B (Dwelling schedule), no. of cards of form C, enumeration completed, FC-I study, draftsman checked/corrected/approved, checker checked/corrected/approved, coding checked, final inspection of forms, block tabulation of forms, general tabulation.
BLOCK LISTS are sheets (ca. 8x11-inches) used for administrative purposes only and track the collection of 13 specific pieces of data from the DWELLING SCHEDULES. This information was used to construct land use survey maps (a nearly complete set of ten oversize books containing a total of 345 maps of the Los Angeles area). They include: street name, street no., type of residential structure, no. of dwelling units in residential structure, residential structure no., description of non-residential uses, no. of business units occupied, no. of business units vacant, no. of stories, area of land not in permanent use, area of structure, use of continuous frontage in one use, feet of continuous frontage in one use.
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From 1936 to 1939, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) employed millions of people to carry out public work projects around the country. The program cost $7 billion.
In 1939, the WPA conducted a census of the greater Los Angeles area going door to door to collect information on each household. The household survey cards, also referred to as dwelling cards, were collected for each street address in the greater Los Angeles area. The cards document a wide variety of information ranging from the type of dwelling, the value of the property, the monthly rent or mortgage, to whether or not the unit had toilets that flushed. While these cards form the bulk of the collection, other documents include block face cards, and block lists which document the census process, as well as employee records which provide the background and skills of the census takers themselves.
481 Boxes (400,000 documents)
Language of Materials
In 1939, the Works Progress Administration provided funding for a comprehensive household survey of the Los Angeles area. Over the course of the project, about 400,000 documents, mostly census cards, were generated.
The dwelling schedules and block face cards are organized by Enumeration District, Block Number, and Structure number.
The data cards are grouped by race and other household characteristics. They are identified by Serial Number, and some also provide a Block Number.
- Census districts -- California -- Los Angeles County -- Maps -- Archival resources
- Depressions -- History -- 20th century -- Archival resources
- Dwellings -- California -- Los Angeles -- 1930-1940 -- Archival resources
- Household surveys -- California -- Archival resources
- Los Angeles (Calif.) -- History -- 20th century -- Archival resources
- Los Angeles (Calif.) -- Social conditions -- 20th century -- Archival resources
- New Deal, 1933-1939 -- California -- Los Angeles
- Public administration -- California -- Los Angeles -- Periodicals
- Public works -- California -- Los Angeles Region
- United States -- History -- 20th century -- Sources
- United States -- History -- Archival resources
- United States. Work Projects Administration (Calif.)
- Finding aid for the Household Survey records
- Publish Basic
- Rebecca Hirsch, Michael Hooks, and Jacqueline Morin
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- 2020 July: Finding aid updated by Bo Doub. Added container records and locations based on data from Backstage Library Works and conducted data cleanup.
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