Dan Bouk

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Dan Bouk

Professor of History; Chair, Department of History

Department/Office Information

314 Alumni Hall
  • M 6:00pm - 7:00pm (314 Alumni Hall)
  • W 9:00am - 11:00am (314 Alumni Hall)


Dan Bouk researches the history of bureaucracies, quantification, and other modern things shrouded in cloaks of boringness. For the most recent info on his research, click here.

Bouk studied computational mathematics as an undergraduate at Michigan State, before earning a Ph.D. in history from Princeton University. His work investigates the ways that corporations, states, and the experts they employ have used, abused, made, and re-made the categories that structure our daily experiences of being human.  His first book, How Our Days Became Numbered: Risk and the Rise of the Statistical Individual (Chicago, 2015), explored the spread into ordinary Americans' lives of the United States life insurance industry's methods for quantifying people, for discriminating by race, for justifying inequality, and for thinking statistically. His new book, Democracy's Data: The Hidden Stories in the US Census and How to Read Them, published by MCD/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, was one of the New York Times' 100 notable books for 2022. In an age when we often hear that good governance requires that we depend on good data, it is crucial that everyone (and not just those in quantitative fields) understand and can work to improve the processes that make data from people. Democracy's Data is a history of the 1940 census that will prepare its readers to examine and critique the data-driven systems that surround us. Bouk blogs about his on-going research at shroudedincloaksofboringness.com.

  • Michigan State University, BS (2002)
  • Princeton University, MA (2006), PhD (2009)

Dan Bouk, Democracy's Data: The Hidden Stories in the US Census and How to Read Them (New York: MCD Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2022).

Dan Bouk, How Our Days Became Numbered: Risk and the Rise of the Statistical Individual (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015) [Now in PAPERBACK]

Selected Interviews


Magazine and Newspaper Reviews or Related Pieces

Academic Reviews

  • One of the New York Times's 100 notable books for 2022
  • Winner of Philip J. Pauly Book Prize from Forum for the History of Science in America (2015)
  • Honorable Mention, Annual Book Award for Society for U.S. Intellectual History (2016)
  • Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (Berlin) 2012-2013
  • Phi Eta Sigma Professor of the Year, Colgate University, 2010-2011
  • Krooss Prize, Business History Conference, 2011
  • Best Dissertation Prize, Forum for the History of Human Sciences, 2010
  • Robert Hoffman Scholar, Princeton University, 2008
  • Porter Ogden Jacobus Honorific Fellowship, Princeton University, 2008
  • Honorable Mention, National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, 2004, 2005, 2006
  • Andrew Mellon Fellowship in Humanistic Studies, Woodrow Wilson Fellowship Foundation, 2004