Will big data elimiate the next national census? Keith Dugmore #IJMR2012 #MRX

Welcome to this series of live blogs from the IJMR Research Methods Forum in London. Any errors, omissions, or silly side comments are my own.

Big data – Can the use of ‘big data’ eliminate the need for yet another traditional Census in 2021?
Keith Dugmore, Director, Demographic Decisions

  • About a third of people in the room answered the last census online [I’ve only answered on paper]
  • 94% completion rate even though it’s compulsary to answer the census
  • All the data is free [are you listening Canada and US, free!]
  • Census hasn’t really changed since 1961 – household forms on paper, some postal innovations in 2001, online options in 2011
  • Increasing costs and difficulties of traditional census means they need to consider alternatives
  • Options
    • full census to everyone
    • Rolling census over 5 or 10 year period
    • Short form to everyone and short form to some
    • and others
  • Data sources – patient data, election data, school data, DVLA, maybe even customer databases, loyalty card data
  • Each one might miss miss migrant worker dependants, international students, asylum seekers, expatriats, deceased, newborn babies, some duplicates, home schooled children. But across everything, nearly everyone should be covered.
  • Problems – updating may not be great, not representative samples, biases by region
  • Electricity has 100% coverage, gas 80%
  • Telecoms – only have address for 50%
  • Sharing of this data may be prevented due to reputational risk or the data protection act
  • The quality of the census is great for a day and then gets worse and worse after that. An alternative method might have greater, longer lasting accuracy. It could be done annually or quarterly. We might even get new data like income. [um… now you’re starting to push it. that’s getting really big brother.]
  • We want an alternative method but is there one out there? A recommendation will be made by September 2014. [I think a recommendation on that data will be out of date in September 2013]
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