Talon and the French Minister of the Marine Jean-Baptiste Colbert had brought the colony of New France under direct royal control in 1663, and Colbert wished to make it the centre of the French colonial empire. To do this he needed to know the state of the population, so that the economic and industrial basis of the colony could be expanded.
Jean Talon conducted the census largely by himself, travelling door-to-door among the settlements of New France. He did not include Native American inhabitants of the colony, or the religious orders such as the Jesuits or Recollets.
According to Talon's census there were 3215 people in New France, and 538 separate families. The census showed a difference in the number of men at 2,034 versus 1,181 women. Children and those who were unmarried were grouped together; there were 2154 of these, while only 1019 people were married (42 were widowed). 547 people lived in Quebec, 455 in Trois-Rivières, and 625 in Montreal. The largest single age group, 21-30 year olds, numbered 842. 763 people were professionals of some kind, and 401 of these were servants, while 16 were listed as "gentlemen of means".