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Census and Population Data

What Is Census and Population Data?

A census is the record of information about the members of a given population—usually a national one. A population census is a collection, analysis, and public distribution of various data on residents of a country or well-defined partial geographic area during a set period of time. This information is demographic, economic, and social in nature.

Aside from the national censuses, other counts, community surveys, sample surveys, administrative records, business counts and patterns are used to analyze and infer information about an entire population. You can use the information in these surveys to extrapolate conclusions about the general population in an area.

Where Does Census and Population Data Come From?

The government conducts the national (and usually decennial) census. Most countries have a specific department or office dedicated to censuses or to national statistics, meaning there is only one source per country. There are no other ways to collect all the data included in a national census.

Other sources of population data include public records of vital events, defined as births, deaths, marriages, divorces, separations, annulments, adoptions, and so on. You can also access demographic sample surveys, population registers, and international publications regarding a population (like the UN Demographic Yearbook).

Secondary population data can be accessed from journals, newspapers, magazines, annual research reports, and more.

What Types of Columns/Attributes Should I Expect When Working with This Data?

Attributes that are normally a part of census or population data include population (amount of residents in a given city, country, or area), age, location, socio-economic data, and race.
The following is also usually noted in Censuses:

  1. Geographic attributes, such as place of residence and birth
  2. Personal attributes, such as sex, age, marital status, language spoken at home, number of people per residence
  3. Individual economic attributes, such as employment status, occupation, primary income source

What Is This Data Used For?

Governments use census and population data to improve schooling, welfare, and local government in a certain city or area. They also track and anticipate problems that may arise due to population increase.

Nowadays, this data is also published in a wide variety of formats accessible to businesses, all levels of government, media, students and teachers, charities, and to any interested citizen. Census data can be presented in both simple visual graphs and complex statistical models.

Crucially, census data offers unique insights into small areas and small demographic groups which sample data would be unable to capture with precision. The level of detail that census data captures is unrivalled, with information about a neighborhood’s commuting patters, the number of rooms in their homes, even what type of fuel they use to heat their homes. This is invaluable for small businesses or for businesses aiming at a very specific market.

How Should I Test the Quality of Census and Population Data?

There aren’t many ways to test the quality of census and population data collected by the government, though they can usually be trusted to provide accurate information about their own population every ten years.

You can evaluate private surveys and datasets in two ways: first, by comparing their methods and results against external benchmark data. Second, by assessing the quality of the surveys used.

Every decision made when designing survey questions affect respondents’ answers, thereby affecting the measurement quality of the responses. Carefully consider the introductions provided to respondents and the instruction provided to interviewers as well as the type of response options or wording used to formulate a request for an answer. To properly assess the quality of data, you must understanding the tools used to collect it.

What Are the Most Important Factors I Should Vet when Selecting This Data?

Firstly, comprehensive data should include information from primary sources (such as the census) and secondary ones (newspapers, annual research reports). Also, the data should be updated frequently—another reason the decennial census is not nearly enough to maintain up-to-date knowledge about the population in any region for business, research, or other use.

Interesting Case Studies and Blogs to Look Into

6 case studies based on the use of ACS (American Community Survey) data
How to Use Population Data to Enhance your Business Strategy

Tangible Examples of Impact

A restaurant owner in New Mexico debating whether to install a drive-through window. He used ACS statistics to determine that drive-through window sales accounted for 34% of restaurant sales in New Mexico.

“It’s the highest (percentage) in the nation,” Hait said. Bottom line is that the restaurant owner was losing potential business without a drive-through option for customers.

Three years later, the man came up to Hait at another presentation and gave him a hug. He had just paid off the 10-year small business loan he took out to install the drive-through windows.

Can Census Bureau Data Drive Business Growth and Job Creation?

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