This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Monday, September 16, 2019

Are European Countries Abandoning Census-Taking?

No matter how much other information we might collect about people, history suggests that censuses are the best way to know how many people there are in a given place. It was thus a little worrisome to read the new article by Paolo Valente, a statistician in the Social and Demographic Statistics Section at United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, published online by the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP). He points out to us that European countries are going through a process of modernizing the census, which means cutting back on the traditional forms of data collection. Here's his assessment of the upcoming round of 2020 censuses in Europe compared to earlier census rounds:

I'm not so worried about the combination of population registers and census data collection, but the increasing reliance on population registers as the sole enumeration method can be problematic unless we are talking about a highly regimented society that can readily document migration and other demographic events. 

I personally like the U.S. method of using the short-form to gather the demographic essentials of age, sex, race/ethnicity, and household composition, with other more detailed data being gathered on a rolling survey basis through the American Community Survey. To be sure, the process is being modernized by the increased use of Internet responses, and electronic (rather than paper) gathering of data, as Valente points out. But we really do need the census, even if people want to complain about it.

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