A census is the record of information about the members of a given population—usually a national one. A population census is the collection, analysis, and public distribution of various data on residents of a country or well-defined partial geographic area during a set time period. 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.
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 population (like the UN Demographic Yearbook).
You can also access secondary population data from journals, newspapers, magazines, annual research reports, and more.
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. Censuses usually also note the following:
Government use census and population data to improve schooling, welfare, and local government in a certain city or area. They also track and anticipate problems hat 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 lends itself well to both simple visual graphs and to 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 unrivaled, 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 very specific customers.
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.
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.
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.
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