Keith Rankin Analysis: Census Survey

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Census Survey – Analysis by Keith Rankin

Keith Rankin.

I did an anonymous survey of my first year (tertiary) statistics and economic students. In West Auckland, while we have some international students, the biggest demographic is New Zealand residents born outside of New Zealand. Many students, though not most, are over 25 years old.

58 students attended classes from 8-13 March. The quinquennial population census was held on 6 March 2018. 36 of the 58 students completed the census; that’s  62 percent.

This is a bit of a worry. Rather than taking a census, we seem to be gathering a large non-representative sample; a biased snapshot of New Zealand in 2018.

Of the 22 who had not completed the census, 13 clearly answered ‘Yes’ to ‘My household has not received an online census code’.

From these 13, the following comments were made:

  • “I have received a census to my address for the old tenant who used to live there, but not for myself”.
  • “Don’t know what to do without a census code”.
  • “I am not a New Zealander. So I don’t know this census survey.”
  • The system didn’t have my address in it. It also does not allow for unknown separate households at one property, requiring ringing for more codes” (This student plans to complete the census when/if the codes arrive.)
  • “I did not receive the form”. This student ‘could not contact the Statistics New Zealand helpline’ and is ‘waiting for Statistics New Zealand to contact me’.

So, it’s not entirely apathy.

Among the other 9 who did not complete the census, comments given were:

  • ‘The online Census code for my household did not work’. ‘I could not contact the Statistics New Zealand helpline’. “Delay in reply”.
  • “I received the form but keep forgetting to fill it up”.
  • “I was not informed”.
  • “I live with my landlord and I don’t know if they do it or not”.
  • “I have no idea if my household has received an online census code”.

I also note, from colleagues, that some parents filled in the census for their adult ‘children’. This suggests some erosion of civic culture; and suggests that future censuses may be little more reliable than this one.

I understand that there will be an extensive follow-up process from Statistics New Zealand. Perhaps I should survey my students again in May, to learn if the after-census service has been effective.

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