The Census as a Luxury

The following are a collection of news articles, editorials, and reports on the likely possibility that the UK will be scrapping its census – to be replaced by a survey and a sweep of commercial data sources and administrative records.

In for the count: Arguments for scrapping UK census do not add up
Editorial | Fiscal Times
September 2, 2013

Quotes:

The census is Whitehall’s window on British society. If you are not counted, you do not count.

Yet the government believes that the census is a luxury that Britain can no longer afford. When it was last conducted in 2011 it required a 35,000-strong army of researchers and cost £480m. This is cheap by international standards – the US census costs more than three times as much per head – and a drop in the £7tn-odd ocean of public spending that will, over the course of a decade, be influenced by the results. Census data can save ministers from costly mistakes. Abolishing it may prove penny-wise but pound-foolish.

And, the Canadian problem:

At stake is not only the accuracy of the census itself, but also that of countless sample-based surveys that it is used to calibrate.

And, a nice, pithy conclusion:

The carpenter’s rule is to measure twice and cut once. The government should reflect on this advice before ditching an indispensable yardstick of social change.

Ending the national census would make us blind to our society
Danny Dorling | The Guardian
September 2, 2013

This is a shorter version of a paper published in Radical Statistics. This paper has useful references.

The 2011 Census: What surprises are emerging . . . cancellation is stupid
Danny Dorling | Radical Statistics

The next two articles are from the Fiscal Times. This is not an open access journal. You may be able to read the articles by answering a survey question (on cloud computing, smart phone usage, etc.).

Researchers in UK count cost of plan to scrap census
Kate Allen | Fiscal Times
September 1, 2013
This piece emphasizes that neither a survey or currently available data (administrative/proprietary commercial) would provide the geographical detail or the content scope that a census would.

Loss of census seen as threat to UK historical insight
Kate Allen | Fiscal Times
September 1, 2013
This piece emphasizes what a loss of a census would mean for historical research, including genealogy.

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