Counting Canadians

Canada’s chief statistician resigned last month in protest of the government’s decision to replace the long-form census questionnaire, previously mandatory for 20 percent of the population, with a voluntary version.   I imagine the point is that a voluntary questionnaire can’t possibly be delivering anything like a random sample of the population, though the linked article doesn’t make the statistical issues very clear.  The new head census-taker says the voluntary survey will be “usable and useful” but not comparable to the previous census.   Do I have any Canadian readers who can explain to me why the government thought this was a good idea?

And for Americans:  did you know that the response rate for the Canadian census is 96%?  Whoa.

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8 thoughts on “Counting Canadians

  1. Jim says:

    Hi Jordan. Presumably the reason is that the current government is supported more by people who are more likely to complete the questionnaire, and so having a voluntary one would tilt the count towards the voting districts that support them. Pretty similar to the US situation, also pretty similar to the way that compulsory voting is not so popular in most of the world. (Or maybe you actually just wanted confirmation of this from a Canadian…)

  2. Greg says:

    According to Industry Minister Tony Clement, the government took this decision because Canadians not should be forced, under threat of fines, jail, or both, to divulge extensive private and personal information. Naturally, this spin doesn’t make sense. The political commentaries (I’ve seen and heard) agree that the real motivation is unclear. I suspect and fear that the goal is to reduce/eliminate good data so that government programs can be organized around political desires rather than the needs of Canadians.

  3. tao says:

    Jordan, I was hoping you’d do a post on the Fields medalists. You don’t have to, though.

  4. JSE says:

    Terry Tao did a great post so there’s no need for me to.

  5. Ryan says:

    Comments 3 and 4 are clearly a joke. I would know if this joke is intentional or hilariously accidental.

  6. JSE says:

    When Terry comments here he does so as “Terence Tao,” so I take tao above to be a different Tao.

  7. tao says:

    I’m not Terry Tao, I only share his last name

  8. Terence Tao says:

    The Tao that is the subject of discussion is not the true Tao.

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