Census frequency

January 4th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A proposal to shift to a 10-year could seriously affect Christchurch’s recovery, critics say.

Statistics Minister Maurice Williamson said in July 2011 the Government was considering holding the census once every decade.

Currently conducted every five years, the census helps determine electoral boundaries and funding for services like district health boards, schools and the police.

I’m not sure how a comment made 18 months ago is a news story today, unless there has been some more recent development.

Labour earthquake recovery spokeswoman Lianne Dalziel said Christchurch was already living with the consequences of a delayed census.

“I’m not criticising the delay that we’ve had because obviously it was done for the right reasons. We would have got a very distorted view if it had gone ahead in 2011.”

However, delaying the census by two years did cause problems, particularly for this year’s local body elections, she said.

“The election will be based on boundaries that aren’t where people are living. I think that’s going to be a bit of a shake-up,” she said.

“I’d really want to see a good case put up for a delay. We’ve had the schools shake-up landed on the city without the benefit of knowledge about where the settlement patterns are going to fall and that’s wrong.”

Labour statistics spokesman Raymond Huo said a 10-yearly census would reduce costs to Statistics New Zealand, but it was “not that straightforward”.

“I think [Williamson’s] idea is half-baked at best because it’s not that simple,” he said.

“The key drivers are cost constraints and the demand for more frequent detailed and accurate statistics. Particularly for the Christchurch area, we need more frequent and accurate data.”

I agree with Dalziel and Huo that a move from five to 10 years is not desirable. I’m a bit biased as I am a frequent and large user of census data, but I think it would impact many areas of activity.

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10 Responses to “Census frequency”

  1. Michael (911 comments) says:

    I’m not sure that the census is entirely valid – I refuse to answer half the question in it as they are not relevant (or should not be relevant) to Government. I’ve yet to receive any contact from stats about this.

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  2. Pete George (23,687 comments) says:

    Why not every six years? It could then be done in every second year there is no local body or national election.

    Although that would be stuff up if there was an early election.

    Or if the electoral cycle is changed to four yearly the census could be every four years as well.

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  3. bringbackdemocracy (428 comments) says:

    Delay the local body elections by 3 or 4 months and use the new electoral boundary information.

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  4. krazykiwi (9,186 comments) says:

    Surely a paper-based, infrequent census is a relic. There must be smarter ways to gather relevant demographic data in the 21st century

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  5. aitkenmike (95 comments) says:

    kk – It will (I assume) be possible to fill out the census online this year. I was a census deliverer/collector for the aborted attempt in 2011 and it was going to be an option then, and the training emphasised that we should push the online option as much as possible. I filled my own out early (can’t remember if this was a test or if online gave you the option of logging in prior to the actual date) and it worked really well, and was suprisingly well designed and intuitive to use for a first time live site.

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  6. thor42 (971 comments) says:

    I agree – a census every ten years would be next to useless.
    Every five years is good.
    I will definitely do it via the online option if that is offered. That’s definitely the way to go in future.

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  7. BlairM (2,365 comments) says:

    Britain and the US seem to manage just fine with one every ten years, I can’t for the life of me understand why having one every five is such a complete necessity. In fact, I’m not sure why they are necessary at all in the modern age.

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  8. Camryn (543 comments) says:

    A good random sample is more reliable than a census for many things… best to actually get the sample than to go for the lot and fail.

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  9. tvb (4,516 comments) says:

    I do not know why we need 100% samples. Why not do a major survey every 10 years and a sample every 5 years. The questions seem stupid to me anyway.

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  10. Manolo (14,070 comments) says:

    The UK and the US have a census every ten years, so should we. Once a decade is perfectly fine.

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