Census Enumeration and Analysis

Although enumeration and analysis are generally considered as separate stages of the census process, technological changes have resulted in the boundaries between these processes becoming blurred since many of the same issues are found in both. The basic units of enumeration of most population censuses are the individual and the household. These are also the most common units of census analysis, but analysis may also be undertaken by aggregation within and beyond households to use other units including family and community.

In the past, spatial units of enumeration and analysis have largely been constructed to facilitate effective enumeration and to serve legislative and administrative purposes at analysis. Increasingly, with the use of GIS, small spatial units are seen as building blocks to devise aggregated spatial units custom made for almost any purpose. Of course, suburbs, wards, cities, districts, counties, regions, states, provinces, and other administrative and political units are still important in the process of census data analysis and dissemination.

Methods of Enumeration

A great deal of effort is put into the design and testing of questionnaires before enumeration begins, and the success of census enumeration and analysis depends on the quality of questionnaire design. Well designed census questions include those which are succinct, not open ended, and do not ask leading questions.

Although census enumeration in theory takes place at a specific point in time (census moment), in reality, enumeration takes place over days or weeks in order to gather information about the particular census moment. The two most common methods of enumeration in a comprehensive census are enumerator based distribution of questionnaires (using either direct interviewer or canvasser method, or the self enumeration or householder method) and postal distribution of questionnaires (which inevitably involves self enumeration but might include telephone follow up). In the United States, distribution and collection is by post while in Spain, ItalyAustralia, and New Zealand both are done by enumerators, while in Canada and the United Kingdom distribution of forms is done by enumerator and return is by post. In many less developed countries there is much more reliance on direct interviewer methods. In the twenty first century, a number of census agencies have initiated online enumeration, and while relatively small proportions of these populations have been enumerated in this way, this form of enumeration is likely to increase rapidly in importance.