“Cumulative” harm from voluntary Census

Have a look at this article from the Hill Times: Voluntary census already damaging reliability of statistics, harm is ‘cumulative’.

“...we’re going to be getting further and further away from a point when we ever did have good information about what society looked like. The effect of bad information is cumulative, and it shows up in all kinds of policies.

Thanks to Wendy Watkins for posting this to the CAPDU list!


Toronto gives up on NHS

Interesting article on how the Toronto city government has decided not to use data from the NHS for planning purposes, deeming it too unreliable.

Favourite quote: on being asked if not being able to use census data will pose a problem, the head of the Social Research and Analysis unit responded “Only in the sense that the true indication of a neighbourhood outcome is how things change over time”.


Thanks to Tracey Lauriault for posting this to the CAPDU list!

IASSIST, the Census, and a lot of imaginary Germans

The 2013 IASSIST conference was held a couple of weeks ago in Cologne, Germany, with a number of CAPDU members in attendance. The Canadian census situation was a  theme running through all of last year’s conference in Washington – the opening plenary was devoted to it, and it came up repeatedly in talks, in comments on sessions, during coffee breaks – like a sore point that we data people just couldn’t stop poking. This year talk had of course died down, though I noticed a few pointed comments on governments that interfere with data collection.

However, the closing plenary was of surprising relevance – perhaps more so than the speaker intended. The talk was on record linkage in the social sciences, and the speaker made some comments suggesting that censuses are obsolete (or soon will be), with administrative data collection and linkage being the future of social science analysis. (This was suggested last year as a possible direction for Canada to consider.) He pointed out that our host country Germany relied largely on administrative data – in 2011 they had conducted their first census since reunification. (Privacy issues can be a political minefield in Germany, for reasons which it should not be too difficult to extrapolate.)

Coincidentally, that same day the results of the 2011 German census were released. They found that administrative data had over-counted the country’s population by 1.5 million, or around 1.5 percent. They over-counted the population of foreign residents by 15 percent. The foreign residents accounted for a large share of the population drop, but there were still close to 500,000 mysteriously nonexistant German citizens.

I’ll admit I’m surprised by this myself – I’d assumed that administrative data would be at least as accurate as Census survey data.

Immigrant counts are off – by quite a bit

So far my favourite snippet from the reference material on the National Household Survey (pointed out by this Toronto Star article) is this, one, taken from here:

It is impossible to definitively determine how much the NHS may be affected by non-response bias. However, based on information from other data sources, evidence of non-response bias does exist for certain populations and for certain geographic areas…
(B)ased on the estimates and trends from the sources mentioned above, evidence suggests that the NHS estimate for the population born in the Philippines is overestimated at the national level. According to population estimates, the number of immigrants from the Philippines who entered Canada from January 2006 until June 2011 is 141,502, while the NHS estimate of the population born in the Philippines who immigrated between January 2006 and the survey date, May 10, 2011 is larger (152,270). As well, the population born in Pakistan is suggested to be underestimated… 

Also, that list of townships for which no data will be released? Includes 1814 places. That’s… quite a few.

The Star article quotes Industry Minister Christian Paradis saying the following:

“This was the first time a voluntary National Household Survey was undertaken,” Paradis said. “Our government will be looking at options to improve the quality and reliability of the data generated by the 2016 census cycle.”

Anyone have any advice for him?

National Household Survey and data supression

Statistics Canada has started releasing data from the National Household Survey (the infamous Census long form replacement), along with some information about what they won’t be releasing. This release includes data on Aboriginal Peoples and on Immigration and Ethnocultural Diversity.

Data was suppressed for areas with less than a 50% response rate. No data at the neighbourhood (census tract and census dissemination area) level has been released yet, but there is a list of Census subdivisions (towns) that are being suppressed.  Some of these have populations in excess of 2500, about the size of a census tract (and much larger than a dissemination area), making me wonder how many holes will be in the neighbourhood data and even if they will release it at all.

Here’s the list of suppressed towns:

Update: a researcher tells me that contacts at Statistics Canada have told him that dissemination area data will be available “at least as a custom tabulation.” Hmm.

Update #2: Tracey Lauriault at datalibre.ca has a nice summation of news stories on and reactions to the NHS release, including some very cogent criticisms.

Well, we all knew it could be bad. Now we’re seeing how bad.

CCSD Court Case: Equal Right to be Counted

The Canadian Council on Social Development is continuing the fight to save the Census. From their web site:

The fight to save the Census continues as CCSD et al vs The Government of Canada will be heard in the Federal Court on November 23, 2011 at 09:30AM.  CCSD and 12 other partners are fighting for Canada’s equal right to be counted in the Mandatory Short Form, the only mandatory tool left in the group of census surveys that reaches every Canadian.

Visit the site for information on how to get involved.