Census frequency

July 7th, 2011 at 8:06 am by David Farrar

Andrea Vance at Stuff reports:

Moving to a 10-year could make trans-Tasman comparisons tricky and create problems for historians, a populations expert says.

Statistics Minister Maurice Williamson said yesterday that the Government was considering pushing out the five-year census, after this year’s was delayed because of Canterbury’s earthquakes.

But Waikato University’s professor of population economics Jacques Poot said the shift would put data out of whack with Australia, which also collected information every five years. “New Zealand has a history that we have a census every five years and we do this in the same year as Australia.

“It has huge benefits for cross-country comparisons as well as for historians to look at long-term trends. We’ve been doing this since the late 19th century.

I think it would be regrettable to move from every five years to every ten years for the census.

A huge number of decisions are made on the data we get from the census, and in my experience the data gets stale fairly rapidly. For example if you even compare the sub-national population projections after five years with the results of the next census, you’ll see significant deviations from the projections.

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16 Responses to “Census frequency”

  1. tvb (4,518 comments) says:

    The questions are stupid and pointless and a 100% sample is positively archaic.

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  2. Will de Cleene (485 comments) says:

    A highly mobile population makes a five-yearly cycle more useful than a once in a decade one. This is one of the stupider attempts at cost saving that National have mentioned. Then again, this government is not above using chicken entrails as expert policy analysis. Statistics have no place to play in lobbyist-based politics.

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  3. Murray (8,847 comments) says:

    “Problems for historians” WAAAAAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

    The biggest problems for historians in this country is a socialist/racist agenda and the revisionist fairy tales of James Belich they depend on. Aint no cenus going to worry them believe me.

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  4. Manolo (14,082 comments) says:

    Once in a decade sounds just fine. Less intrusion from any nosy government is always welcome.

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  5. side show bob (3,660 comments) says:

    Wish the fucking agricultural census was every 10 years. The government wants to know of every living breathing thing on the ranch including flora. Of course it’s for future planning, be fucked it is. It’s so the pricks can levy their fucking carbon taxes. At the moment a nation wide radio frequency chip cattle tagging system is being forced on farmers in the name of food safety, what a fucking joke, they have to tell more lies to cover their arses. Perhaps the best bit of news is their computer system has blown a fuse and plans for country wide “food safety” have been delayed for a year, oh dare how sad never mind.

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  6. peterwn (3,312 comments) says:

    As an example of mobility I saw somewhere that 25% of electricity accounts ‘churn’ each year because of people moving (excluding those looking for better deals).

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  7. Falafulu Fisi (2,179 comments) says:

    The only reason for doing census is for the Govt to use it to SPEND , SPEND, SPEND and more SPENDING. It is time to put a stop to it.

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  8. mikenmild (11,777 comments) says:

    ‘revisionist fairy tales of James Belich they depend on.’

    Ha ha ha.

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  9. Mick Mac (1,091 comments) says:

    Very Good point Murray, sadly but true in some quarters.
    and you have a point Fala.
    I think 5 years is fine but we shouldn’t have to pay to look up the datasets and conclusions as we are forced to take part.

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  10. gravedodger (1,573 comments) says:

    With the widely acknowledged power of the computer aligned with the accuracy of modern sampling systems being ignored in discovering what the population is actually doing at a given point in time, I am firmly in the camp of those who are very nervous at some of the questions asked.

    I am no longer involved in farming to the degree that census filling is required and I think SSB @ 0920 is on the money.

    Then there is the deliberate fudging or even downright falsifying that goes on. Sheesh around 1990 I became a Maori for around 15 years when in answer to the ethnicity question I replied , “non of the above, I am a native born New Zealander”.
    Well for the next several years notable people such as the Maori Archbishop who made such monumental strides in preserving “democracy” in Fiji, made several offers of assistance in finding “MY IWI”. One of the offers was accompanied by a list of such groups and whether or not they had “FISH”, were trying to get “FISH” or were just shit out of luck. From memory there were around 88 opportunities.

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  11. David in Chch (523 comments) says:

    What is it in other countries? As I recall it is every 10 years in Canada, for example. I think a lot of countries do every 10 years.

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  12. mpledger (425 comments) says:

    Canada is five years – the 01s and the 06s.

    Canada is thinking of going to a sample based “census” and they have one of the best government survey statistics organisations.

    I am not against a sample based census as long as it’s fair in it’s burden. Even with a sample, you’d still need to sample from every area unit and possibly every meshblock because the government needs detail down to that level e.g. if you’re going to place a Pacific People’s kindy at a local school then you need to know that the Pacific population still lives in the area.

    For that reason (sampling down to every meshblock) I don’t see that a sample based census would save lots of money. It’s when you can drop area units that the saving really start.

    If people in an area want services then they’ll complain if they are not sampled in the census becasuse they won’t be able to provide (objective) evidence of need. Actually, I could see that aspect of it getting very tricky legally.

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  13. backster (2,185 comments) says:

    I’m a 100% in agreement with MURRAY… 5years should be classed a ‘nice to have’.

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  14. leftyliberal (651 comments) says:

    @mpledger: Very good points.

    As someone who uses census data regularly, much of it does change quite a bit in a 5 year period, and thus moving to 10 years would have implications for a wide range of research.

    Hopefully the decision will be made by the statisticians rather than the accountants!

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  15. Alan Wilkinson (1,901 comments) says:

    I’m with tvb. Ridiculously inefficient and many of the questions result in utterly meaningless data. Those that want it should pay for it. They would then find much cheaper ways to get the info to the level of accuracy they really need.

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  16. Rex Widerstrom (5,354 comments) says:

    While I agree that a lot of the data collected is meaningless (I can’t see how the number of people professing to be Jedis matters to anyone, let alone the number claiming to believe in other imaginary friends, for instance). But having said that, a census that collects data that is useful is a valuable planning tool not just for government but also for many businesses.

    Those that want it – businesses – do pay for it. It’s called taxes. So some consultation as to what questions they want asked would help create a meaningful exercise that ought to be undertaken at least once every give years.

    But if we had a UIN, used for online voting and referenda, we could also use it for data collection, eliminating the huge expense of shuffling paper, manual data entry, and all the other 18th century expensive nonsense the government seems to think is necessary for such an exercise, but isn’t.

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