A Nation on the Move

The 1990 Census shows how Americans chased dreams and ran from nightmares, trading inland areas for sunny -- and increasingly crowded -- coastal states

In America, getting on in the world means getting out of the world we have known before.

-- Ellery Sedgwick, The Happy Profession, 1946

America is a nation of people forever running toward bright new futures -- or away from bleak presents and past failures. Every decade since 1790, the U.S. Census has given demographers and historians a chance to take stock of this restless population and chronicle its hopes and fears.

A century ago, Frederick Jackson Turner used the 1890 headcount as a springboard for his provocative "frontier thesis," which argued that America's distinctive culture was the result of its...

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