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Demographic Data: Censuses, Registers, Surveys

Mark Mather

Subject Sociology » Demography and Population Studies

Key-Topics databases and reference systems, quantitative methods

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


Population censuses, registers, and surveys are the primary sources of demographic data, including information about the size, composition, and characteristics of a population or population subgroups. A census is an enumeration of all households in a well-defined territory at a given point in time. Population registers are systems of continuous registration, maintained by certain countries, to keep demographic records of individuals. Surveys are used to collect detailed data on a particular subject from a sample or subset of the population. All three sources of data – censuses, registers, and surveys – are often used to monitor changes in population size and composition. For hundreds of years, censuses have been used to collect demographic, social, and economic information about individuals and households. The first modern census was conducted in Quebec in 1666, but there are much earlier references to census taking in the Bible and in early civilizations in China, Egypt, India, and Rome. The first US census was conducted in 1790, followed by the United Kingdom and France in 1801. After World War II, the United Nations encouraged all countries to conduct national censuses, and today, more than 90 percent of the world's population is covered by a census enumeration. Recent censuses conducted in China and India – arguably the most ambitious censuses ever taken – together counted more ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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