MTONGUE full count data for 1910


For research I am pursuing on the size of the ethnic Latvian population in the United States, I want to make sure my understanding of full-count IPUMS data is correct.

Prior to the 1930 census, Latvian (Lettish) speakers were grouped with Lithuanian speakers, meaning that from published census data we did not have a clear idea of how many persons reported Latvian as their mother tongue (MTONGUE).

However, the IPUMS full count data show a case count of 8,800 persons reporting Latvian as MTONGUE in 1910. As I understand it, IPUMS and worked together on the full count. If even ball-park accurate, the number would suggest a much smaller Latvian-speaking population than those found in contemporary reports. With what degree of confidence can we say that 8,800 persons reported Latvian as their mother tongue in 1910?

Andris Straumanis

There are two things to note about the MTONGUE variable in the full-count 1910 data through IPUMS USA. First, the 1910 full-count file currently available is preliminary; we make preliminary full-count files available to users with the understanding that we are in the process of improving them. Improvements may include refining the transcription of string variables (which could include mother tongue). Secondly, the universe of persons included in the variable MTONGUE in 1910 is foreign-born persons. Depending on the reports you are using as a point of comparison, the exclusion of U.S.-born persons who speak Latvian/Lettish from MTONGUE may account for some of the difference you are seeing. You may be also interested in the LANGUAGE variable, though in 1910 the corresponding question was aimed at identifying English speakers and only persons who could not speak English were supposed to respond to this variable with a non-English language.

Thank you!