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CENSUS OPTIONS

Census options are based around conducting a complete enumeration of the population at a point in time either for the country as a whole or for selected geographical subdivisions. Some variants also include a sampling element, for example, only asking a sample of the population to supply information on some topics. In each case surveys and administrative data could be used to measure the coverage and quality of the census results.

Full Census

This option is a continuation of the current approach i.e. conducting a full census of the population at a single point in time (for example, most recently, in March 2011) albeit with much greater use of web data collection. Everyone completes a ‘long form’ questionnaire and the responses provide the basis for producing a count of the population and details on key characteristics. Historically a census has been taken every ten years in England and Wales, but some countries use a five year cycle instead.  Between censuses the results are supplemented by a series of mid-year population estimates which use the ‘cohort component method’ to take account of births, deaths and net migration.  Social surveys on particular topics are used to fill in details, and update estimates as required in the inter-censal period. 

Short and Long Form Census

This option is similar to the current census approach in that information would be collected from the full population at a single point in time. A subset of the population would be asked to complete a ‘long form’ census questionnaire. A ‘short form’ questionnaire collecting basic demographic, household and family information would be sent to the remainder of the population. Estimates would be created from a combination of the two sources. Population estimates would be updated using the existing cohort component method and socio-demographic statistics by social surveys.

Short Form Census and Continuous Survey

In this option, basic demographic, household and family information would be collected from the full population at a point in time through a short form census i.e. a questionnaire covering these basic topics only. Population estimates would use the existing cohort component method in the inter-censal period. Socio-demographic statistics would be collected through a large scale continuous survey.

Rolling Census

In this case, a census is conducted in different areas on a rolling basis. For example, 10% of the country might be selected each year so that over a decade the whole population would be counted. Population estimates would be supplemented by the existing cohort component method, and socio-demographic statistics by social surveys. An approach of this kind has been implemented in France. Research has already been commissioned into the suitability of a rolling census approach in England and Wales.

Content from the Office for National Statistics.
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