From time immemorial—or at least since the first U.S. census was taken in 1790—the head of household has been identified for every house, hovel, plantation, apartment, coop, condominium, igloo and wigwam to which an intrepid census taker could wend his way.

And what could be simpler? The husband and father, the old man, the breadwinner was readily identifiable. With rare exceptions, he was a he who brought home the bacon, the caviar or the grits. His income, his education, the number of his progeny, his occupation were pondered by sociologists, planners, politicians...

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