The 1940 census won't be available to the public until 2012? WTF?

I only glanced at the first of those docs and didn’t find reference to census info. But it’s curious that in 1978, the gummint can say that the information that had previously been publc now is quarantined. And where did you find that specific reference, anyway?

I wish I could join in the indignation but as an Englishman who, under the 100-year rule, must wait until 2020 for the 1921 census I can only gaze in envy across the Atlantic. (Government ministers kindly released the 1911 census a couple of years early last year. They’re so considerate.)

Yeah, mine too. My father’s WW2 records and my grandfather’s WW1 records were both destroyed. (I’ve wondered how they proved pension and benefits eligibility for some people.)

No, it wasn’t.

This seems to be a fairly thorough explanation of how the rule evolved. The texts of the all-important exchange of letters in 1952 can be found here.

Note that the decision to release the earliest censuses was not made until 1942. So when the 1940 census had been taken, it wouldn’t necessarily have been obvious that those returns would ever be released, let alone that they would be a mere 72 years later.

I am mightily impressed that someone was able to score such a comprehensive explanation of the matter and in the process not only answer the OP, but also clarify some of the misconceptions about the issue at the same time. Kudos, APB.
p.s. This site would never need to worry about finances if people realized how much they could learn from it. It tops many of the search and information repositories for the depth and breadth of information, and the sense that there are people actually thinking about the questions.

Not a matter for legislation at all, then. More a gentlemen’s agreement.

Still could have been motivated by political currents in the 50s - cloaked in the extreme discretion of the archival profession.