Stats Can’t-ada

Statistics Canada is changing its long-form census survey from a mandatory to a voluntary one. Apparently Minister Tony Clement made the decision.  It has angered a number of stakeholders that rely on this data.

The long form was sent out to 20% of the population and they were required to fill it out.  Now it will be sent to 30% of the population and it will be voluntary.  The Minister doesn’t like coercion, he says, and now that it is going to 30%, maybe even more will fill it out.

I use this data a lot.  It is critically important to understanding the broader trends in the Canadian economy.  I have also filled out the long form and it is not that big a deal.

Governments force people to do all kinds of things.  Filling out a 20 minute survey doesn’t sound that oppressive to me.

I hope this change was well thought out.

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5 Responses to Stats Can’t-ada

  1. Making responses voluntary instead of mandatory automatically introduces a bias in the responses. Unless there is a way to measure the bias, the collected data will not be reflective of the true population.

    Such a major change will probably make pre and post comparisons a lot weaker than if the data collection policy had been kept constant.

    This appears to me to be a big misstep in policy.

  2. Jon Doe says:

    This appears to me to be an attempt to gather data from upper-middle class in order to depict Canada in a more favourable light and justify policy implementations based on the collected data. The average home income, level of education, and various other statistics will be skewed more to the right (as opposed to left) side of the Bell curve.

    Should make the blue team very happy.

  3. mikel says:

    I’m kind of torn about this, during the last census I was in a group that was objecting to ‘mandatory’ filling out of the census. In the end I wasn’t given a long form, so mine didn’t ask me anything other than name and address, so there wasn’t much to ‘protest’.

    However, the nature of the protest was because the government was subcontracting out to a private corporation to conduct the census, and a private contractor involved in arms manufacture at that. They later scaled back that involvement, but between that and the recent incidents at Revenue Canada where workers were found to be searching out data on ex wives, in laws, and many others, I can see both sides. Good data is imperative, although there has only really been statscan, so we really don’t know how good that data has been in the past anyway.

  4. richard says:

    According to press reports, the change was influenced by a group in the Conservative base that mimics the US far-right paranoia on anything to do with govt initiatives. The other factor is, I believe, the typical neoconservative response to data-gathering and analysis – the neos know that data analysis will not favour many of their policy positions; by squashing the data collection, they limit the data analysis. Then the public is left with just opinions.

  5. John says:

    Mandatory filling out of the census long form is forced labour. You’re being forced to spend your resources in the form of your time to complete a unit of work for no compensation of any kind.

    Hmm…what’s another term for “forced labour”…

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