... the historian (he also has a degree in computational mathematics) writes with genuine, even geeky affection for his subject ... These stories shine light on a part of government that many of us seldom think about. They introduce readers to census designers, enumerators (who slog door to door to do the count) and ordinary Americans whose lives are recorded in the data ... Solid storytelling chops and a friendly tone help Bouk convince readers who might question just how interesting a book about the census can be. Surprise — it can be! In the hands of someone who understands it, the census is a mirror of the country’s ideals, values, flaws and attributes ... Bouk uncovers the great paradox about the decennial count: that it is an impossibly large and messy task, but also an awe-inspiring achievement ... [Bouk] wants us to believe that achieving a better census is possible, and to care whether it improves. Democracy’s Data makes the case.
... endearingly nerdy ... A historian who has also studied computational mathematics, [Bouk] believes passionately in the ideals of the census, but reveals in often head-smacking detail how badly it has failed society ... Though he specializes in bureaucracies and quantification, Bouk himself has a poet’s flair for wordplay ... Bouk concerned about the whole operation’s future, but this is a man of buoyant optimism. The book’s straightforward title undersells its playful contents. Democracy’s Data is ruminative and rich; it makes the dull old census a feast for the senses.
With pictures and discussion of actual census tracts, 50 pages of footnotes, and an extensive bibliography, Bouk brings out fascinating facts and history that cast a new slant on this government agency. Genealogists, history lovers, and anyone interested in how government works will find this a fun and revealing history of how politics, racism, and bias affect the census. A must purchase for public and academic libraries.