Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Statistical excitement: Census 2011

If you live in Australia, you'll know that tonight is Census night. You may also know that this is the 100 year anniversary of the Census being introduced.

I am quite excited about this. Probably not as excited as those at the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), but quite excited nonetheless.

I know I should probably keep this to myself. I certainly shouldn't post it into the blogosphere, revealling my nerdiness to anyone who happens to stop by.

But I am. Why the excitement? For a start, I like filling in forms, and this is the first time I will complete the Census myself. Five years ago, when the last one was held, I was still living with my family.

More importantly, though, I'm looking forward to what the Census data will tell us when the information is collated, analysed and released. After all, the aim of the Census is to guide the planning and funding of Australian infrastructure, services and facilities.

Census data can tell you, for example, that in Perth (Western Australia), many things remained stable from 1996 to 2006:

Changes in Census data from 1996 to 2006 in Perth, Western Australia

Purple bar for home internet connection shows 2001 data (1996 not available)

I was quite surprised by the consistency in most of the above figures - the obvious exception being in home internet use, which doubled from 2001 to 2006. The fact that 13% of females under 19 had at least one child (a very small minority had over five children), in both 2006 and 1996, was more than a little disconcerting.

Census data can also tell you that in 2006, Perth had a lower percentage of Australian-born residents than the national average (61.5% vs. 70.9%). We had a higher than average percentage of people born in...

  • England (9.9% in Perth vs. 4.3% on average Australia wide)
  • New Zealand (2.4% vs. 2.0%)
  • Scotland (1.4% vs. 0.7%)
  • South Africa (1.3% vs. 0.5%)
  • Malaysia (1.3% vs. 0.5)

Of course, there are many more facts that one could muse over. This newspaper article reveals that (apparently) 58,053 people reported being Jedi Knights in the 2006 Census. Interested in marriage rates? The average age of the population? What people study at university? How much people earn? It's all there, freely accessible on the ABS website

As I say, I can't wait for the next round of data collection to come in.

If you're Australian, are you looking forward to filling in the Census? Or is it just another mid-week task to try to get through?


  1. I am quite excited about the census - some forms are dull but these ones are quite interesting and you made me remember just how different my life was last time I filled in the census

  2. I'm an Historian. I LOVE the census, although I'd be more interested in the *first* census that the most recent one... There was a big hubbub in Canada this year because they did away with the long census form. WHY? WHY!?!? WHYYYYYYY? Cruel and unusual, as far as I'm concerned... *I* sure didn't vote for this stupid government. ;)

    And now I'm off to play on the ABS website. Dear unemployment, you don't pay, but you leave me time for interesting pursuits! ;)

  3. I do like the census, but more because I imagine in 100 years or so my ancestors will be able to look me up and see some details.

    What really made me laugh though was the number of my friends complaining that there are no questions about pets and they couldn't list their "fur babies".

  4. Yes, this was my first time doing it too! Rather exciting - I've even been following the Census on Twitter, 'cause they're actually funny :P

  5. @Johanna GGG
    I hadn't thought of that aspect...but I can imagine it would be a neat way of comparing your life in 5 year blocks.

  6. @Stephanie @ extremebalance.net/blog
    Oh how frustrating - don't they know they should consult people who understand such things? :P I hope you enjoyed the ABS website at least, there's some interesting data on there (the Census is almost the least interesting!).

  7. @Lisa
    Oh how funny...I wonder if animals will ever make it on?! The thought of records being available in 100+ years is pretty amazing.

  8. @Hannah
    This makes me think that I might need a Twitter account after all. If the Census people are on there, I must be lagging behind.

  9. I'm with you, I love filling out forms, although, some of the questions were random, we filled out majority of the form in advance. And I eagerly waited the arrival of census night to complete. Hope you totes made a night of it. Enjoy your week sweets. :(

  10. Kari you are my favourite nerd :-) I fell asleep on the lounge room floor while my husband filled it all in.

    ps. reading the last Earth's Children book now- it's good!

  11. @Anna Johnston
    I was curious as to how the questions were chosen...some did seem random indeed.

  12. @cityhippyfarmgirl
    This made me smile :) Clearly we're at opposite ends of the nerd scale!

    I'm glad the book is good...I better hurry up and read the ones in the middle. You've given me incentive!

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