Census versus Sampling

Demographic Data

Demographic data are data output of demography which is the study dealing with the human population. Demographic data can be related to the Earth, the same as geographic data. Demographic Data usually represent geographical location, identification, or description of populations.
Demographic Data Collection

This field of science and research can be applied to anything about the dynamic nature of the human population, including how it changes over time and what factors are affecting the changes. This study also covers aspects of the human population such as the size, structure, distribution, spatial and temporal changes in response to birth, death, ageing or migration.

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Demographic data most commonly used include crude birth rate, general fertility rate, age-specific fertility rates, crude death rate, infant mortality rate, life expectancy, total fertility rate, gross reproduction rate and net reproduction ratio.

Demographic data can analyze specific patterns and trends related to human religion, nationality, education and ethnicity. These data are also the basis for specific branches of studies like sociology and economics.

Demographic Data Collection

Demographic data collection can be broadly categorized into two methods: direct and indirect. Direct demographic data collection is the process of collecting data straight from statistics registries responsible for tracking all birth and death records and records about marital status and migration.
Perhaps the most common and popular method of direct demographic data collection is the census. The census is commonly performed by a government agency, and the methodology used is individual or household enumeration.
The interval between two census surveys may vary depending on the government conducting. In some countries, a census survey is performed once a year or once every two years, and still, others do a census once every 10 years. Once all the data collected are in place, information can already have derived from individuals and households.
The indirect method of demographic data collection may involve only certain people or informants to get data for the entire population. For instance, one of the indirect demographic data methods is the sister method. In this method, a researcher only asks all the women about the number of their sisters who have died or have had children who have been killed at what age they died.
From the collected data, the researchers will draw their analysis and conclusions based on indirect estimates of birth and death rates and then apply some mathematical formulas so they can estimate trends representing the whole population. Other indirect demographic data collection methods may be to collect existing data from various organizations that have done a research survey and collate these data sources to determine trends and patterns.

Census: Definition and Characteristics

A well-organized procedure of gathering, recording and analyzing information regarding the population members is called a census. It is an official and complete count of the universe, wherein each unit of the universe is included in the collection of data. Here universe implies any region (city or country), a group of people, through which the data can be acquired.
Under this technique, the enumeration is conducted about the population by considering the entire population. Hence this method requires huge finance, time and labour for gathering information. This method is valid to find out the ratio of males to females, the ratio of literate to illiterate people, and the ratio of people living in urban areas to rural areas.
Census is the official count of the population of a country. The United Nations defined census as the total process of collecting, compiling and publishing demographic, economic and social data pertaining, at a specified time or times, to all persons in a country or delimited territory.

According to the United Nations, the census is featured in the following aspects:
  1. Individual enumeration,
  2. Universality within a defined territory,
  3. Simultaneity and
  4. Defined periodicity.
Among the recommended and valuable topics to be covered in a census are the following: Firstly, Geographic Characteristics: the place where found at the time of census or place of usual residence, place of birth, duration of residence, place of the previous residence, place of work; Secondly, Personal and Household Characteristics: sex, age, relationship to head of household/ relationship to head of the family, marital status, duration of marriage, marriage order, children born alive, children living, citizenship, literacy, school attendance, educational attainment/educational qualification, national/ethnic group, language, religion; and Thirdly, Economic Characteristics: type of activity, occupation, industry, status, primary sources of livelihood.

Some of the useful derived topics are:
  1. Geographic Characteristics: total population, locality, urban and rural,
  2. Personal and Household Characteristics: household composition, family composition,
  3. Economic Characteristics: socio-economic status, dependency, etc. Based on de jure or de facto procedures, all people are counted as residents or present in a defined territory and other topics mentioned above.


What is Sampling?

We define sampling as the process in which the fraction of the population so selected to represent the characteristics of the larger group. This method is used for statistical testing, where it is impossible to consider all members or observations, as the population size is enormous.

As statistical inferences are based on the sampling observations, selecting the appropriate representative sample is of utmost importance. So, the sample chosen should indicate the entire universe and not exhibit a particular section. Based on the data collected from the representative samples, the conclusion is drawn from the whole population. For instance: A company places an order for raw material by simply checking out the sample. The units which constitute the sample is considered ‘Sampling Units’. The full-fledged list containing all sampling units is called ‘Sampling Frame

Key Differences between Census and Sampling

The essential differences between census and sampling are discussed in detail in the given below points:
  1. The census is a systematic method that collects and records data about the population members. Sampling is the subset of the population selected to represent the entire group in all its characteristics.
  2. The census is alternately known as a complete enumeration survey method. In contrast, sampling is also known as a partial enumeration survey method.
  3. In the census, each and every unit of population is researched. On the contrary, only a handful of items are selected from the population for research.
  4. Census is a very time-consuming survey method, whereas, in the case of sampling, the survey does not take much time.
  5. The census method requires high capital investment as it involves the research and collection of all the values of the population, unlike sampling, which is a comparatively economical method.
  6. The results drawn by conducting a census are accurate and reliable, while there are chances of errors in the results drawn from the sample.
  7. The sample size determines the probability of errors in the outcome, i.e. the larger the size of the population, the less the chances of mistakes and the smaller the size, the higher the chances of errors. This is not possible with a census as all the items are considered.
  8. Census is best suited for a population of heterogeneous nature. As opposed to sampling, which is appropriate for its homogeneous nature.

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