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A census is the procedure of systematically acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population. It is a regularly occurring and official count of a particular population. The term is used mostly in connection with national population and door to door censuses' (to be taken every 10 years according to United Nations recommendations), agriculture, and business censuses. The term itself comes from Latin: during the Roman Republic the census was a list which kept track of all adult males fit for military service.

The census can be contrasted with sampling in which information is obtained only from a subset of a population, sometimes as an Intercensal estimate. Census data is commonly used for research, business marketing, and planning as well as a base for sampling surveys. In some countries, census data is used to apportion electoral representation (sometimes controversially so - see e.g. Utah v. Evans).

It is widely recognized that population and housing censuses are vital for the planning of any society. Traditional censuses are, however, becoming more costly. A rule of thumb for census costs in developing countries has been $1 USD per enumerated person. More realistic figures today are around $3 USD. These approximations should be taken with great care since a variable number of activities are included in different countries (e.g. enumerators can either be hired or requested from civil servants). The cost in developed countries is far higher. The cost for the 2000 census in the U.S. was estimated to be $4.5 billion USD, more than $15 per enumerated person. Alternative possibilities for retrieving data are being investigated. Nordic countries Denmarkmarker, Finlandmarker and Norwaymarker have for several years used administrative registers. Partial and sample censuses are used in Francemarker and Germanymarker.

Census and privacy

While the census provides a useful way of obtaining statistical information about a population, such information can sometimes lead to abuses, political or otherwise, made possible by the linking of individuals' identities to anonymous census data. This consideration is particularly important when individuals' census responses are made available in microdata form, but even aggregate-level data can result in privacy breaches when dealing with small areas and/or rare subpopulations.

For instance, when reporting data from a large city, it might be appropriate to give the average income for black males aged between 50 and 60. However, doing this for a town that only has two black males in this age group would be a breach of privacy: either of those people, knowing their own income and the reported average, could figure out the other person's income.

It is typical for census data to be processed in a way so as to obscure individual information. Some censuses do this by intentionally introducing small statistical errors to prevent the identification of individuals in marginal populations[691]; others swap variables for similar respondents. Whatever measures have been taken to reduce the privacy risk in census data, new technology in the form of better electronic analysis of data poses increasing challenges to the protection of sensitive individual information.

Ancient and medieval censuses

Censuses in Egypt are said to have been taken during the early Pharaonic period in 3340 BC and in 3050 BC.

One of the earliest documented censuses was taken in 500-499 BC by the Persian Empire's military for issuing land grants, and taxation purposes.

In Indiamarker, censuses were conducted in the Mauryan Empire as described in Chanakya's (c. 350-283 BC) Arthashastra, which prescribed the collection of population statistics as a measure of state policy for the purpose of taxation. It contains a detailed description of methods of conducting population, economic and agricultural censuses.

Rome conducted censuses to determine taxes (see Censor ). The word 'census' origins in fact from ancient Rome, coming from the Latin word 'censere', meaning ‘estimate’. The Roman census was the most developed of any recorded in the ancient world and it played a crucial role in the administration of the Roman Empire. The Roman census was carried out every five years. It provided a register of citizens and their property from which their duties and privileges could be listed.

The world's oldest extant census data comes from Chinamarker during the Han Dynasty. Taken in the fall of 2 AD, it is considered by scholars to be quite accurate. At that time there were 59.6 million living in Han China, the world's largest population. The second oldest preserved census is also from the Han, dating back to 140 AD, when only a few more than 48 million people were recorded. Mass migrations into what is today southern China are believed to be behind this massive demographic decline.

In the Middle Ages, the Caliphate began conducting regular censuses soon after its formation, beginning with the one ordered by the second Rashidun caliph, Umar. The most famous census in medieval Europe is the Domesday Book, undertaken in 1086 by William I of England so that he could properly tax the land he had recently conquered. In 1183, a census was taken of the crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, to ascertain the number of men and amount of money that could possibly be raised against an invasion by Saladin, sultan of Egyptmarker and Syriamarker.

A very interesting way to record census information was used in the Inca Empire in the Andean region from the 15th century until the Spaniards conquered their land. The Incas did not have any written language but recorded information collected during censuses and other numeric information as well as non-numeric data on quipus, strings from llama or alpaca hair or cotton cords with numeric and other values encoded by knots in a base-10 positional system.

Modern censuses


A partial and incomplete population census was taken in Afghanistanmarker in 1980. A census was planned for 2007.


The latest population census was conducted in Albaniamarker in April 2001. Prior to that, a census was conducted in 1989 at the end of the communist regime.


Population and housing censuses have been carried out in Algeriamarker in 1967, 1977, 1987, 1998, and 2008. The next census is in 2016.

Antigua and Barbuda

A Population & Housing Census was carried out in 2001.


National population census are carried out in Argentina roughly every ten years, the last one being in 2001.

More about census, see: National Institute of Statistics and Census of Argentinamarker.


The Austrianmarker census is run by the Statistik Austria. It is carried out every ten years, the last one being in 2001.


The Australian census is operated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. It is currently conducted every five years, the last occurrence being on August 8, 2006. Past Australian censuses were conducted in 1911, 1921, 1933, 1947, 1954, and 1961 - 2006 every five years. In 2006, for the first time, Australians were able to complete their census online.


Population censuses were conducted by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) in 1974, 1981, 1991 and 2001.


Censuses on population size in Barbados are conducted by the Barbados Statistical Service (BSS), the last major census conducted was 2000, and one is scheduled for 2010.


Population censuses have been taken in Beninmarker in 1978, 1992 and 2002.


Population and housing censuses have been carried out in Boliviamarker in 1992 and 2001.


A census was taken by apostolic vicar the bishop Pavao Dragicevic in 1743.


The Brazilianmarker census is carried out by IBGE, the Brazilianmarker Institute of Geography and Statistics, every 10 years. The last one was in 2000. Earlier censuses were taken in 1872 (the first), 1900, 1920, 1941, 1950, 1960, 1970, 1980 and 1991.

In Brazil, one of the most modern in the world Demographic Census. For the collection, there are hierarchies of collections of data. The hierarchies are: Brazil (Country), Major Regions, States, Macro-regions, micro-regions, municipalities, districts, sub-districts, Neighborhoods and census tracts.Depending on the administrative hierarchy, some types of data are not published to respect confidentiality.

For example:

1. The lower area of data collection is the census tract, with approximately 300 households, and information is collected on age, condition of the home, gender, income, among others.

2. Districts: information on race, color, religion, disability, etc.

3. Municipalities (cities): in addition to the information already described, there is information of GDP, industrial production, agricultural production, migration between cities to study or work, to live migration, inflation, employment rates, number of industries, the quantity of trade, etc.Information is collected with handheld computers equipped with GPS receivers and digitized maps.

For more information, see the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE).


Bulgarianmarker governors organized a national census soon after the liberation of the Bulgarian lands. In 1881 a census took place inthe Principality, while in 1884 a census was organized in Eastern Rumelia. The first census covering the unified state took place in 1888.

Since these first accounts Bulgarian authorities had organized several population censuses: 1892, 1900, 1905, 1910, 1920, 1926, 1934, 1946, 1956, 1965, 1975, 1985, 1992 and 2001.

The data provided in the Bulgarian censuses from 1888 until WW-II is regarded as highly reliable according to the standards of the time. The Bulgarian leading statisticians of the period were generally educated in Western universities and participated vividly in the international cooperation, therefore insisted and succeeded in introducing the best practices of the time. The quality of the data provided of later censuses is a matter of debate.


The Canadianmarker census is run by Statistics Canada. The first census conducted in Canada was conducted in 1666, by Frenchmarker intendant Jean Talon, when he took a census to ascertain the number of people living in New France. The individual provinces conducted censuses, in the 19th century and before, sometimes in conjunction with each other. In 1871, Canada's first formal census was conducted, which counted the population of Nova Scotiamarker, Ontariomarker, New Brunswickmarker, and Quebecmarker.

Censuses in Canada are conducted in five-year intervals. The last two censuses were conducted in 2001 and 2006. Censuses taken in mid-decade (1976, 1986, 1996, etc.) are referred to as quinquennial censuses. Others are referred to as decennial censuses. The first quinquennial census was conducted in 1956.

For the 2006 Census of Canada, respondents were able, for the first time, to choose to complete their census questionnaire online. Other options for answering the questionnaire include postal mail (using a pre-paid envelope) and telephone (using an 800 number).

See also: Canada 2001 Census, Canada 2006 Census.


In the Province of Alberta, Section 57 of its Municipal Government Act (MGA) enables municipalities to perform their own censuses on any given year. An official municipal census must be conducted no earlier than April 1 and no later than June 30 of the same year, according to the MGA's Determination of Population Regulation. If municipalities choose to make their census count official, the new population must be submitted to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing prior to September 1 of the year the census was performed. The latest census counts for Alberta's municipalities are released in the Ministry's annual Official Population List publication.

AltaPop (Alberta Population) is a very useful website that builds upon the data provided by the Province and Statistics Canada. Visit AltaPop to compare municipal and federal census results by municipality, to analyse historic population trends by municipality, and to view detailed annual population summaries either by size of municipality or sorted alphabetically.


National population census are carried out in Chilemarker every ten years by the INE (National Statistics Office), the last one being in 2002.


Population censuses have been taken in the Republic of Chinamarker and the People's Republic of Chinamarker in 1913, 1944, 1972, 1999 and 2004. These were the world's biggest censuses as they attempted to count every man, woman and child in the most populous nation in the world. Some 6 million enumerators were engaged in the 2000 census. The first economic census was taken in 2004.

Costa Rica

Costa Ricamarker carried out its 9th population census in 2000. INEC, National Institute of Statistics and Census is in charge of conduct these census. Past Costa Rican censuses were conducted in 1864, 1883, 1892, 1927, 1950, 1963, 1973 and 1984.

Czech Republic

Census in the Czech Republicmarker is carried out every 10 years by the Czech Statistical Office. The last census was taken in 2001. Earlier censuses were taken in 1869, 1880, 1890, 1900, 1910, 1921, 1930, 1950, 1961, 1970, 1980 and 1991.


The first Danishmarker census was in 1700-1701, and contained statistical information about adult men. Only about half of it still exists. A census of school children was taken during the 1730s.

Following these early undertakings, the first census to attempt completely covering all citizens (including women and children who had previously been listed only as numbers) of Denmark-Norway was taken in 1769. At that point there were 797 584 citizens in the kingdom. Georg Christian Oeder took a statistical census in 1771 which covered Copenhagenmarker, Sjællandmarker, Mønmarker, and Bornholmmarker.

After that, censuses followed somewhat regularly in 1787, 1801, and 1834, and between 1840 and 1860, the censuses were taken every five years, and then every ten years until 1890. Special censuses for Copenhagen were taken in 1885 and 1895.

In the 20th century, censuses were taken every five years from 1901 to 1921, and then every ten years from 1930. The last traditional census was taken in 1970.

A limited population census based on registers was taken in 1976. From 1981 and each year onwards information that corresponds to a population and housing census is retrieved from registers. Denmark was the first country in the world to conduct these censuses from administrative registers. The most important registers are the population register (Det Centrale Personregister), a Building and Dwelling Register and an Enterprise Register. The central statistical office, Statistics Denmark is responsible for compiling these data. This information is available online in the Statbank Denmark.

It is possible to search a portion of the Danish censuses online at Dansk Demografisk Database, and also view scanned versions at Arkivalier Online.


  • The Statistical Department of the Ministry of Finance conducted the first census in 1882, which considered as a preparatory step; the first true population census was conducted in 1897. Thereafter, censuses were conducted at ten-year intervals in 1907, 1917, 1927 and so on.
  • In 2006 the Central Agency For Public Mobilization and Statistics CAPMAS conducted the thirteenth census in the Egyptianmarker census series where the Egyptmarker's population hit 76.5 million inside and outside the country.[692]


Population censuses have been taken in Estoniamarker in 1881, 1897, 1922, 1934, 1959, 1970, 1979, 1989 and 2000. The responsible institution is the Statistics Estonia.


Three censuses have been taken in Ethiopiamarker: 1984, 1994 and in 2007. The responsible institution is the Central Statistical Agency.

Most of the census in 2007 was taken in August, while the Somali Regionmarker and the Afar Regionmarker were not covered. The northern Afar region is a remote, hot and arid area. The eastern Somali region (Ogadenmarker) hosts a large nomadic Somali population and is a conflict area where Ethiopian regular forces are fighting against Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF).


The first population census was taken in 1749 when Finland was a part of Sweden. The most recent census took place on December 31, 2000.


Napoleon Bonaparte began the census in France as a means of determining the number of potential soldiers under his rule. Today, the census in Francemarker is carried out by INSEE. Since 2004, a partial census is carried out every year, and the results published as averages over 5 years.


The first systematic population on the European continent was taken in 1719 in Prussia (roughly corresponding to today's northern Germany and western Poland).

The first large-scale census in the German Empire took place in 1895. Attempts at introducing a census in West Germanymarker sparked strong popular resentment in the 1980s since many quite personal questions were asked. Some campaigned for a boycott. In the end the Constitutional Courtmarker stopped the census in 1980 and 1983. The last census was in 1987. Germany has since used population samples in combination with statistical methods, in place of a full census.


Census takes place every 10 years and is carried out by the National Statistical Service of Greece. Last census was in 2001.


Modern population censuses have been taken in Guatemala in 1930, 1950, 1964, 1973, 1981, 1994 and in 2002. Controversial cenuses were in particular the ones in 1950 and 1964 (misclassification of the Maya population) and the 1994 census (generally questioned). About 14,000,000 people live in Guatemala as of July 2009.

Relaciones Geográficas of Mexico and Guatemala, 1577-1585.

On May 25, 1577, King Philip II of Spain ordered by royal cédula the preparation of a general description of Spain's holdings in the Indies. Instructions and a questionnaire, issued in 1577 by the Office of the Cronista Mayor-Cosmógrafo, were distributed to local officials in the Viceroyalties of New Spain and Peru to direct the gathering of information. The questionnaire, composed of fifty items, was designed to elicit basic information about the nature of the land and the life of its peoples. The replies, known as "relaciones geográficas," were written between 1579 and 1585 and were returned to the Cronista Mayor-Cosmógrafo in Spain by the Council of the Indies.

Hong Kong

Census takes place every 10 years and by-census between two censuses by the Census and Statistics Department of Hong Kong. The last census was conducted in 2001 and the last by-census was taken in 2006.


Official decennial censuses have been taken in Hungary since 1870; the latest one – in line with the recommendations of the United Nations and the Statistical Office of the European Union – was carried out in 2001.Starting from 1880 the Hungarian census system was based on native language (the language spoken at home in the early life of the person and at the time of the survey), vulgar language (the most frequently used language in the family), and other spoken languages.


The first Icelandicmarker census took place in 1703, following upon the first Danishmarker census of 1700–1701. Further censuses were carried out in 1801, 1845 and 1865. The 1703 exercise was the first ever census to cover all inhabitants of an entire country, mentioning the name, age and social position of each individual. All of the information still exists, although some of the original documents have been lost.

The setting up, in 1952, of the National Registry (Þjóðskrá) eliminated the need for censuses. All those born in Iceland, and all new residents, are automatically registered. Individuals are identified in the registry by means of a national identification number (the so-called kennitala), a number composed of the date of birth in the format ddmmyy and four additional digits, the third of which is a control digit, and the last of which indicates the century in which the person was born (9 for the 1900s and 0 for the 2000s).

The National Registry doubles as an electoral register. Likewise, all bank accounts are linked to the national identification of the owner (companies and institutions all have their own identification numbers).


The decennial census of Indiamarker is the primary source of information about the demographic characteristics of the population of India, which is the second most populous country in the world.

The first census in India in modern times is dated 1901. It started as far back as in 1860 and was finished in 1871. Starting from there, a population census has been carried out every 10 years, the latest being the fourteenth in February-March 2001.

The census is carried out by the office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India, Delhimarker an office in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, under the 1948 Census of India Act. The act gives Central Government many powers like to notify a date for Census, power to ask for the services of any citizen for census work. The law makes it compulsory for every citizen to answer the census questions truthfully. The Act provides penalties for giving false answers or not giving answers at all to the census questionnaire. One of the most important provisions of law is the guarantee for the maintenance of secrecy of the information collected at the census of each individual. The census records are not open to inspection and also not admissible in evidence.

The census happens in two phases: first, house listing and house numbering operations; and second, the actual population enumeration phase. The census is carried out by the canvassing method. In this method, each and every household is visited and the information is collected by specially trained enumerators.

9 February 2001, the first day of the 2001 census was celebrated as the census day.


The first population census was done during the colonial era, 1930. Before that, a non-overall census was already conducted in 1920. After that census was done irregularly. The first census after independence was 1961, followed by 1971. Since 1980 it is conducted regularly every 10 years. In between, there is also economical census (every 10 years, five years after population census) and agricultural census (three years after population census).


Main article: Demographics of Iran

The Statistical Center of Iran carries out nationwide population and housing censuses every 10 years, the last of which occurred in 2006 (1385 AP). In the Islamic Republic of Iran, based on Article 4 of the Act of the Statistical Center of Iran (SCI), the census shall be implemented once every 10 years according to the Presidential decree. So far there have been 6 incidences of population census in Iran in the years 1956, 1966, 1976, 1986, 1996, and 2006; all taken in accordance with scientific methods.


The census in Irelandmarker is carried out by the Central Statistics Office. The census is carried out every five years, with more detailed information collected in years ending in 1 and less in the years ending in 6. The 1976 census was cancelled as a cost-saving measure, but a supplementary census was held in 1979 after it became apparent that the 1970s had seen major demographic changes. The census scheduled for 2001 was postponed until 2002 due to the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.

The most recent census took place on 23 April 2006. According to the 2006 form, "any person who fails or refuses to provide information or who knowingly provides false information may be subject to a fine of up to €25,000," under the Central Statistics Act 1993. On the CSO website, instructions for non-English speaking residents of Ireland were available. They were mock copies of the census forms, with all headings/questions etc. being translated into a particular language. These were not to be filled out, but were only a guide on how to fill out the English or Irish form. This census also asked two new questions relating to ownership of PCs and Internet connection.

Data from the 1911 Census for the island of Ireland was made publicly available in 1961, and are being published online. Subsequent census records will be made publicly available 100 years after collection.

Questions relating to the ability to speak the Irish Language are included in the census. The figures obtained have been criticised as inflated by cognitive biases, such as response bias or wishful thinking. The 2006 census included an additional question on frequency of speaking Irish.


The first census in the state of Israelmarker was held in November 1948, six months after its creation, to establish the population registry. Subsequent censuses were conducted by the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics (ICBS) in 1961, 1972, 1983 and 1995. In these, 20% of households completed a detailed survey and the remainder a shorter questionaire. There is no legal requirement to hold a census within a given interval; in practice, the ICBS requests and the government decides. The next Census to be held was postponed from 2006 to late 2008/early 2009. Only the detailed survey of 20% will be carried out, as a cost-saving measure.


The census in Italymarker is carried out by ISTAT every 10 years. The last four were in 1971, 1981, 1991, 2001.


Japanmarker collects census information every five years. The figures show the English translation of the 2005 census form. The form solicits information on name, sex, relationship to head of household, year and month of birth, marital status, nationality, number of members of household, type and nature of dwelling, floor area of dwelling, number of hours worked during the week prior to October 1, employment status, name of employer and type of business, and kind of work.


The first population census after the independence in 1946 was taken in 1952. It did only count the number of people in the households and could therefore be considered only to be a housing census. The first real complete census was taken in 1961. The following censuses have been taken in 1979, 1994 and 2004. The distribution of Palestinians and Jordanians within the population has been a politically sensitive issue since the Six-Day war in 1967.


Census in Kenyamarker was first held in 1948, when Kenya was still a Colony administrated by the British. Since 1969 census has been taken every ten years. The last census to date was in 2009.


Kosovomarker, administrated by the UN since 1999, declared independence in 2008. Kosovo government is planning a general population census for 2011.


The most recent census in Latvia was in 2000. Before that, it was about 6 censuses, most part of these previous censuses was undertaken during Soviet (USSR) control. The census in Latviamarker is carried out by Centrālā Statistikas Pārvalde (Central Statistical Bureau).


No census has been conducted in Lebanonmarker since 1932. It indicated a population of 861,399 Lebanese. Various estimates of the population have been taken since; in 1956 it was estimated a population of 1,411,416, with 54% Christian and 44% Muslim. Conducting a census since then has been complicated by various conflicts in the 1970s and 1980s.


The foundation of the Republic of Macedonia followed the break up of the former Yugoslav Republic in 1991. The first population and housing census was taken in the summer 1994. The second census was taken in the autumn 2002. Both censuses were observed by international experts due to the sensitive issue regarding the ethnic distribution (Macedonian vs Albanian population).


Population and housing censuses for Mauritius was collected in 1972, 1983, and 2000; although respondents were asked to identify their race/ethnic origin in the 1972 census, this question was dropped from the following censuses because "the government felt that it was a divisive question". The Statistics Act of 2000 directed that all official censuses be conducted by the Central Statistics Office of Mauritius, as well as serve as the central depository for this information.


Population censuses are taken every 10th year in Mexicomarker. The latest have been in 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990 and 2000 (the 12th census).After 1990 the Mexican census has been taken ever 5 years.


The first census was taken in 1980. The second in 1997. The third was taken 1-14 August 2007.


The first census in the Netherlandsmarker was conducted in 1795, and the last in 1971. A law was produced on April 22, 1879, ordering a census to be conducted every ten years.

The census that was planned for 1981 was postponed and later cancelled. A call for privacy was responsible for the cancellation of any further census since 1991. Censuses are being conducted by the Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek ( Netherlands) since 1899. The censuses today are mostly (population, fiscal) register based, combined with surveying.

New Zealand

The census in New Zealandmarker is carried out by Statistics New Zealand (Tatauranga Aotearoa), every five years. The last was on 7 March 2006. For the 2006 Census of New Zealand, respondents could choose to complete their census questionnaire online. See New Zealand Census of Population and Dwellings.


Population censuses are taken every 10th year in Nepalmarker. The latest were in 1981, 1991 and 2001 (the 6th census.)


Population censuses have been taken in Nigeriamarker during colonial time in 1866, 1871, 1896, 1901, 1911, 1921 and 1952. The censuses covered only the southern part of the country except for the 1952 census which was country wide, and the censuses before 1921 were based on administrative estimates rather than on an actual enumeration.

Censuses during the independence were taken 1963, 1973, 1991 and 2006. The results from 1973 were highly disputed. The preliminary results for 2006 indicates a population of 140,000,000. 700,000 enumerators were engaged in this operation.


The two first male censuses was conducted during the 1660s and 1701. Later statistical censuses were held in 1769, 1815, 1835, 1845, and 1855. Norway’s first nominative, complete census was taken in 1801, when Norway still was ruled by the Oldenburg dynasty of Denmark-Norway. The scope of the census followed the de jure principle, so military persons should be included as well as foreigners if they were residents. The 1865, 1875 and 1900 censuses are digitized, and are made searchable on the internet. The census records are made public available when 100 years have passed. Since 1900, a census has been conducted every ten years. (However, the 1940 census was postponed to 1946.) Since 2001 the population census has been combined with the housing statistics.


Censuses have been taken in the Sultanate of Omanmarker in 1993 and 2003.


The first Pakistan Census after the proclamation of independence of Pakistanmarker was conducted in 1951. It was decreed that censuses have to be carried out once in 10 years. The second census was conducted in 1961. However the third one was conducted in 1972 because of war with Indiamarker. The fourth census was held in 1981.The fifth census was conducted delayed in March 1998. The sixth census of Pakistan is planned in October 2008.


The first census in Perumarker was carried out in 1836. The eleventh and latest one was the 2007 Census and was carried out by Instituto Nacional de Estadística e Informática in August 2007.


The census of the Philippinesmarker is enumerated every 5 years (beginning on 1960, except in 2005 where it was moved to 2007 due to budgetary constraints) and the results are used to allocate Congressional seats (congressional apportionment) and government program funding.

The census is performed by the National Statistics Office. The first official census in the Philippines was carried out by the Spanish government pursuant to a royal decree calling for the counting of persons living as of the midnight of December 31, 1877. The first door-to-door census was conducted in 1903 to fulfill Public Act 467 which was approved by the U.S. Congress in July 1902. The last national census was held in 2007 and the next census is scheduled for 2010. For years between the censuses, the NSO issues estimates made using surveys and statistical models.


The census in Polandmarker is carried out by GUS every circa 10 years. The last one occurred in 2002 between May 21 and June 8. During the national census in 2002 the following censuses were conducted at the same time: National Population and Housing Census and National Agricultural Census.


The first census in Portugal was carried out in 1864. The census in Portugalmarker is carried out by Instituto Nacional de Estatística (INE) every 10 years. The last one occurred in 2001.


The first census in Romaniamarker was carried out in 1859. It is now carried out every ten years by the Institutul Naţional de Statistică (INSSE). The last census was in 2002; the next one will be in 2011.


In Russiamarker, the first census of the tax-payers was made in 1722-23 by the order of Peter the Great (only men were counted), and was ordered to be repeated every 20 years. The only complete Russian Empire Census was carried out in 1897. All-Union Population Censuses were carried out in the USSRmarker (which included RSFSR and the other republics) in 1920 (urban only), 1926, 1937, 1939, 1959, 1970, 1979, and 1989. The first post-Soviet Russian Census was carried out in 2002. The next census is tentatively planned for 2010. Currently, the census is the responsibility of the Federal State Statistics Service.

Saudi Arabia

Population censuses have been taken in Saudi Arabia in 1962/63 (incomplete), 1974 (complete but not reliable), 1992 and 2004. An agriculture census was taken in 1999.


The census takes place every 10 years. The last census was in 2002 (although having been planned for 2001), the previous one was in 1991 and the next is planned for 2011.


The first census of modern Sloveniamarker was carried in 1991, after independence had been declared. The Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovenia (Statistični urad Republike Slovenije) conducted the second census in 2002. Further censuses are planned for every 10 years.

South Africa

The first census of South Africa was taken in 1911. Several enumerations have occurred since then, with the most recent two being carried out by Statistics South Africa in 1996 and 2001.


The census in Spainmarker is carried out by INE every 10 years. Although there has been an old tradition and like for making census in Spain, the oldest ones dating back to the 12th century (by Alfonso VII of the Kingdom of Castile), the first modern census was carried out in 1768 by Conde de Aranda, under the reign of Carlos III. The last four were in 1971, 1981, 1991, 2001.


Population censuses have been carried out in Sudanmarker in 1955/56, 1973 (national), 1983 (national) and 1993 (only north). A census was conduced in April 2008. Some areas were difficult to measure (e.g. Darfur).


The first population census in Swedenmarker was carried out in 1749. The last population and housing census was carried out in 1990. It is planned to conduct population and housing censuses based on registers in the future.


In Switzerlandmarker, the Federal Population Census ( , , ) has been carried out every 10 years starting in 1850. The census was initiated by Federal Councillor Stefano Franscini, who evaluated the data of the first census all by himself after Parliament failed to provide the necessary funds. The census is now being conducted by the Swiss Federal Statistical Office, which makes most results available on its website.

Data being collected include population data (citizenship, place of residence, place of birth, position in household, number of children, religion, languages, education, profession, place of work, etc.), household data (number of individuals living in the household, etc.), accommodation data (surface area, amount of rent paid, etc.) and building data (geocoordinates, time of construction, number of floors, etc.). Participation is compulsory and reached 99.87% of the population in 2000.

Starting in 2010, the census will cease to be conducted through written questionnaires distributed nationwide. Instead, data in existing population registers will be used. That data will be supplemented with a biannual questionnaire sample of 200,000 people as well as regular microcensuses.


The first population census in Syria was taken by the French Mandatory Regime in 1921-22. This is however not considered reliable. Censuses during independence have been taken 1947, 1960 (the first comprehensive demographic investigation), 1970, 1976 (a sample census), 1981, 1994 and 2004.


The first census in Taiwanmarker was conducted in 1905, while Taiwan was under Japanese rule.


The Turkishmarker census is run by the Turkish Statistical Institute. The first census in Turkeymarker was conducted in 1927. After 1935, it took place every 5 years until 1990. Now, the census takes place every 10 years. The last census was in 2000. It can be noted that the census enumeration takes place on one single day in Turkey (in other countries it takes 1–2 weeks). This required some 900,000 enumerators in 2000. The 15th census based on improved geographical information systems is planned for 2010.

A census was taken in the Ottoman Empire 1831-38 by Sultan Mahmud II (1808-1839) as a part of the reform movement Tanzimat. Christian and Jewish men were counted but the female population was excluded.


The first censuses in Uganda were taken 1911, 1921 and 1931. It was done in a rather primitive way. Enumeration unit was 'huts' and not individuals.More scientific censuses were taken 1948 and 1959 where the enumeration unit was persons. The census was however divided into two separate enumerations, one for Africans, and one for the non-African population.The censuses during independence 1969, 1980, 1991 were taken jointly for all races. The censuses 1980 and 1991 included housing information and in addition a larger questionnaire for a sample of the population. However, the questionnaires for the 1980 were lost and only provisional figures are available from this census.

The census in 2002 involved some 50,000 enumerators and supervisors. It covered several topics including: population and housing; agriculture; and Micro- and small Enterprises administered at individual/household level. The Preliminary Results were published two weeks after the enumeration. The Final Results were released in March2005, while the analytical findings and the district level results were scheduled to be released in the second quarter of 2006.


The first post-Soviet Ukrainian Census was carried out by State Statistics Committee of Ukraine in 2001, twelve years after the last All-Union census in 1989.

United Kingdom

History of censuses in the UK

In the 7th century, Dál Riata (now western Scotlandmarker and northern County Antrim in Northern Irelandmarker) was the first territory in what is now the UK to conduct a census, with what was called the "Tradition of the Men of Alba" (Senchus fer n-Alban). The Domesday Book of 1086 in England contained listings of households but its coverage was not complete and its intent was not the same as modern censuses.

Following the influence of Malthus and concerns stemming from his An Essay On The Principle Of Population the UK census as we know it today started in 1801. This was championed by John Rickman who managed the first four up to 1831, partly to ascertain the number of men able to fight in the Napoleonic wars. Rickman's 12 reasons - set out in 1798 and repeated in Parliamentary debates - for conducting a UK census included the following justifications:
  • "the intimate knowledge of any country must form the rational basis of legislation and diplomacy"
  • "an industrious population is the basic power and resource of any nation, and therefore its size needs to be known"
  • "the number of men who were required for conscription to the militia in different areas should reflect the area"s population'
  • "there were defence reasons for wanting to know the number of seamen"
  • "the need to plan the production of corn and thus to know the number of people who had to be fed"
  • "a census would indicate the Government's intention to promote the public good" and
  • "the life insurance industry would be stimulated by the results."

The census has been conducted every ten years since 1801 and most recently in 2001. The first four censuses (1801-1831) were mainly headcounts and contained little personal information.

The 1841 Census, conducted by the General Register Office, was the first to record the names of everyone in a household or institution. However, their relationship to the head of the household was not noted, although sometimes this can be inferred from the occupation shown (e.g. servant). Those under the age of 15 had their proper ages listed, but for those who were older the ages were supposed to be rounded down to the nearest five years, although this rule was not strictly adhered to. Precise birthplaces were not given - at best the birthplace can be narrowed down to the county in which the person was living.

From 1851 onwards the census shows the exact age and relationship to the head of household for each individual; the place of birth was also listed, but with varying degrees of precision. Sometimes those who were born abroad have the annotation B.S. or British Subject.

The censuses are reasonably accurate. However, ages in particular are frequently shown incorrectly, though often the difference is only one year; in general the younger the individual the more accurate the age shown. Birthplaces often vary from one census to the next: a common error is to show the place where the census was taken as the birthplace, but most of the variations in birthplace can be accounted for by changes in geographical scale (for example, the nearest town being shown instead of the precise village, or a city being shown instead of the relevant suburb).

The censuses are also remarkably complete - though inevitably a small percentage of the population was not recorded for one reason or another, and in some cases the records are missing or damaged (notably in 1861). Furthermore, all censuses of Ireland before 1901 have been lost or destroyed.

Because of World War II, there was no census in 1941. However, following the passage into law (on 5 September 1939) of the National Registration Act a population count was carried out on 29 September 1939, which was, in effect, a census.

Censuses in the modern day

The census of England & Wales is undertaken for the government by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) for policy and planning purposes, and statistical information is made available in published reports and on the ONS's website. The General Register Office for Scotland (GROS) [693] conducts its own census, while the census in Northern Ireland is carried out by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA). Public access to the census returns is restricted under the terms of the 100-year rule; the most recent returns made available to researchers are those of the 1911 Census for England and Wales. The Scottish 1911 census will be available in 2011.

The 2001 census was the first year in which the government asked about religion. Perhaps encouraged by a hoax chain letter that started in New Zealandmarker, 390,000 people entered their religion as Jedi (See Jedi census phenomenon.)

All of the British censuses from 1841-1911 have been transcribed and indexed and are available online, although GROS will not be releasing the Scottish 1911 returns until 2011; there is a joint project between the National Archives of Ireland and Library and Archives Canada to digitize the 1901 and 1911 censuses for the whole of Ireland, and it is possible this will be completed by the end of 2007. The next UK census is planned for 2011.

United States

The United States Constitution mandates that a census be taken at least once every ten years, and that the number of members of the United States House of Representatives from each state be apportioned accordingly. Census statistics are also used for apportioning federal funding for many social and economic programs.

The first U.S. Census was conducted in 1790 by Federal marshals. Census takers went door to door and recorded the name of the head of the household and the number of people in each household. Slaves were enumerated, but only three out of five were counted for apportionment. American Indians, being neither taxed nor considered during apportionment, were not counted in the census. The first census counted 3.9 million people, less than half the population of New York Citymarker in 2000; the 2000 census counted over 281 million people. In 1902, Congress established the Census Bureau as a federal agency.

In recent times, there have been two forms of questionnaire, long and short. The long form and its additional questions about matters such as daily commute times, housing unit factors, etc. has been replaced by the American Community Survey (ACS). Computer algorithms (based on complex sampling rules) determined which form was mailed to a given household, with one in six receiving the long form. This was supplemented by census workers going door to door to talk to those who failed to return the forms. In addition to a simple count of residents, the Census Bureau collects a variety of statistics, on topics ranging from ethnicity to the presence of indoor plumbing. While some critics claim that census questions are an invasion of privacy, the data collected by every question is either required to enforce some federal law (such as the Voting Rights Act) or to administer some federal program. The United States Congress gives approval to every question asked on the census.

Despite a massive effort, the Census Bureau has never been able to count every individual, leading to controversy about whether to use statistical methods to supplement the numbers for some purposes, as well as arguments over how to improve the actual head count. The Supreme Courtmarker ruled that only an actual head count can be used to apportion Congressional seats; however, cities and minority representatives have complained that urban residents and minorities are undercounted. In several cases, the Census Bureau has recounted an area with disputed figures, provided the local government paid for the time and effort. The state of Utahmarker protested the figures of the 2000 decennial census because it stood to gain a seat in the House of Representatives, but North Carolinamarker gained it instead. Had the Census Bureau been mandated to count the numbers of Utahns living overseas, including many Mormon missionaries, Utah might have gained the seat.

To minimize the burden on individuals and to provide improved data, the Bureau has prepared several alternate methods for gathering economic, demographic, and social information, including the American Community Survey and record linking of depersonalized administrative records with other administrative records and Census Bureau surveys.

By law (92 Stat. 915, Public Law 95-416, enacted on October 5, 1978), individual census records are sealed for 72 years. This figure has remained unchanged since before the 1978 law, reflecting an era when life expectancy was under 60 years, and thus attempts to protect individuals' privacy by prohibiting the release of personal information during individuals' lifetimes. The individual census data most recently released to the public was the 1930 census, released in 2002. Aggregate census data are released when available.


In addition to the decennial federal census, local censuses have also been conducted, for example, in Massachusettsmarker, which conducted a statewide census every five years until 1985. Additionally, each community in Massachusetts takes a municipal census each year. Some states conducted limited censuses for various purposes, and these are typically located in state archives.

See also



External links

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