Decimal System: Powers of Ten


Thursday, July 6 — The Constitution of the United States, ratified in 1788, made this nation the first in the world to conduct a census of population on a regular basis. Every 10 years, in fact.

Divisibility by tens had still more and earlier attraction for the Continental Congress. On this date in 1785, for the first time in history, a nation adopted a decimal coinage system, founded on the dollar we know today.

At the time, money systems around the world were a chaos of fractions and units. Today, only two countries in our world — Mauritania and Madagascar — do not have decimal-based currency. There are 1.54 trillion of our decimal-based dollars in circulation.

The median annual income in America’s 116 million households is about 56,000 of them.

Profile America is in its 21st year as a public service of the U.S. Census Bureau.

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