Population and housing censuses: X-ray of the population for public policies

August 24, 2020

Margarita Vaca Cuevas

A. What is a population and housing census? What is its importance?

Population and housing censuses are:

  • “A population and housing census is a collecting, compiling, evaluating, analyzing and disseminating data process. These data are collected from all the people who inhabit a country, in all homes, at any given time. Censuses provide demographic, economic and social information on the inhabitants of a country” (UNFPA, 2016: 6 SPA).
  • A primary tool to characterize a population, and to identify the cartography and urban capacity of the territory.
  • An alert mechanism to define the communities and aspects that require more attention, especially in the design of programs or projects within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • A basic input for prospective decision-making and strategies generation in accordance with the reality of each country both at the national and sub-national levels.
  • A primary tool to face information challenges for the development of countries such as the living conditions of the population at a disaggregated level by geographical area, social and ethnic groups (UN, ECLAC, CELADE, 2017).
  • An opportunity to incorporate lessons learned from previous years and respond to the challenges of the 2030 Agenda.
  • A basis for the projection and estimation of the population for intercensal periods supported by administrative records and surveys.
  • A main input for budget planning, urban, labor and provision of basic services.

B. Census Characteristics

Universal scope: It involves each and every one of the people in a territory, the homes to which they belong and the dwellings they inhabit. It constitutes the basis for the development of other statistical operations when preparing and updating the sampling frames used in surveys (NU, CEPAL, CELADE, 2017).

Simultaneity: The operation is simultaneous throughout the country with reference to the census moment, thus avoiding duplications or omissions.

Multi-stakeholder involvement: Although the public sector leads this operation, the active participation of different stakeholders is observed throughout the process. For example, the relevant role of the media in reporting findings, progress and challenges, or the willingness of the population to carry out the survey.

C. Types of population and housing Census

A population and housing census can be categorized according to the methodology applied: Factual census, law census, or use of administrative record:

Source: Own elaboration based on (Villacís, 2020 & García y López, 2010)

D. Stages of a population and housing census

The population and housing census begins two years in advance to carry out all the activities related to the preparation of instruments, personnel, logistics and other elements necessary for its implementation:

Source: Own elaboration based on INE Bolivia, nd; ECLAC, 2017

E. 2020 (2015 – 2024) Census Round in Latin America and the Caribbean

Since 1985, when the census operation began in the world, four census rounds have been carried out to date; Starting in 1990 every 10 years. Periodic measurement has made it possible to establish comparisons between countries and regions.

In the case of the 33 Latin America and the Caribbean countries, 8 have carried out their census between 2015 and 2018; 15 are in the process such as Mexico, or will apply it this year; While 20 countries will carry it out between 2021 and 2022. The dates set for the last two groups are tied to the evolution of COVID-19:

Population and housing #censuses are an X-ray of the population for public policies. We present their characteristics, types, stages and the 2015-2014 census round in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Source: own elaboration based on (UNSD, 2020)

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