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All the FactsA History of Information in the United States since 1870$
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James W. Cortada

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190460679

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190460679.001.0001

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Big Government and Small Universities Take On Big Information, 1870–1941

Big Government and Small Universities Take On Big Information, 1870–1941

(p.132) Chapter 4 Big Government and Small Universities Take On Big Information, 1870–1941
All the Facts

James W. Cortada

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that government in America became complex and large, requiring more varied types of information, just as did large commercial enterprises. It describes how three agencies used information: Bureau of the Census, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and Bureau of Economic Analysis, followed by a discussion of how government used information in World War I and during the Great Depression. It includes a discussion of the role of public opinion surveys and the role of universities in creating and using information. Opinion surveys evolved into a complex form of information in the twentieth century that influenced profoundly how politicians and public officials functioned and in how people shaped their opinions about politics and government. American universities became massive creators of new information, while themselves expanding into large institutions. Growth in the size of public and private institutions and how they were able to create new bodies of information were linked to the attitudes people had toward information and to their increased reliance on information handling tools, such as telephones, books, and data processing equipment.

Keywords:   government, Bureau of the Census, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bureau of Economic Analysis, higher education, invention of information, information ecosystem

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