Statistics: Counting the House

The U.S. Bureau of the Census, which fans out across the land every ten years to poll every living American, may well be the biggest official collector of statistics in the world. But a family-owned firm, R. L. Polk & Co. of Detroit, probably stands as the No. 1 private data gathering outfit. It regularly touches the lives of some 100 million Americans-even if only a small fraction of them know the company by name.

By reason of various arrangements with all 50 states (in most cases, Polk pays for what it gets),...

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