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An alternative view of the 2001 census and future census taking

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The 2001 census in the UK asked for a return of people ‘usually living at this address’. But this phrase is fuzzy and may have led to undercount. In addition, analysis of the sex ratios in the 2001 census of England and Wales points to a sex bias in the adjustments for net undercount—too few males in relation to females. The Office for National Statistics's abandonment of the method of demographic analysis for the population of working ages has allowed these biases to creep in. The paper presents a demographic account to check on the plausibility of census results. The need to revise preliminary estimates of the national population over a period of years following census day—as experienced in North America and now in the UK—calls into question the feasibility of a one-number census. Looking to the future, the environment for taking a reliable census by conventional methods is deteriorating. The UK Government's proposals for a population register open up the possibility of a Nordic-style administrative record census in the longer term.

Keywords: Administrative record census; Census of population; Data protection; Demographic account; Demographic analysis; Emigration; International migration; One-number census; Overcount; Personal number; Population register; Population statistics; Post-enumeration survey; Sex ratio; Undercount; Underenumeration

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: May 1, 2004

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