Stats council defends census data

2012-11-01 14:42

The census results are accurate, the Statistics Council, which monitors censuses conducted by Stats SA has said.

“We stand by our decision. The census results are accurate and in fact they are very timely,” council chairman Howard Gabriels told reporters today.

“They are fit for use in policy making and decision making.”

Two consultants involved in the census, academics Tom Moultrie and Rob Dorrington, have expressed concern that the census contained inaccuracies and had been prematurely released.

They also voiced reservations about figures relating to the age distribution of the population in the census and provincial population estimates.

Gabriels rejected criticism that the findings had been rushed and said the release had in fact been delayed by a few weeks.

Although some of the findings had been surprising, the data were consistent internally and with other sources.

The census, which was released on Tuesday, showed that the number of people aged between nought and four was much larger than the cohort of people aged between five and nine.

Griffith Feeney, a consultant who worked with the council on the census, said the data were consistent with a population estimate calculated using Census 2001 results, the number of births registered after 2001 and the number of births during that time.

“The agreement is not perfect ... but it suggests the pattern is real.”

A perfect agreement would have raised suspicions as this should never occur, he said.

Good-quality data could be expected to produce results consistent with other data sources, while poor data would be expected to return inconsistencies and wide variance, said Feeney.

Council consultant Eric Udjo said the anomaly in age distribution could be explained by inaccuracies in previous surveys.

“There is nothing like a perfect census anywhere in the world. There will always be errors,” he said.

“The 2011 census was better at capturing the nought to five age group compared with other censuses,” he said.

However, it was possible that there was some over-reporting, as people did not always correctly report even their own ages.

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