The measurement of population characteristics
Most of the countries in the world collect data about their populations, usually in the form of a census. This is a detailed collection of information on a regular basis for example, every 10 years. The data collected include employment characteristics, ethnicity, educational attainment, patterns of social activity, housing type & ownership.
In the UK the data are collated by areas of local government and by postcode. The smallest area is that covered by one census collector - an area known as an enumeration district.
The information collected is of use to:
- governments - to provide a basis for the allocation of resources to services such as, health, education & employment.
- non-governmental bodies- retailers, advertisers, financial services, property developers and utilities.
Censuses are not without problems. Some people object to them on the grounds that they infringe privacy. Some people do not return their census forms. Political conditions in some countries make censuses difficult to organise.
The measurement of population characteristics - 2
At a national government level, a census:
- records trends over the previous 10 years which can be projectd forward to enable planning in a range of social services.
- helps with prediction of natural population change and migration patterns.
- enables the estimation of national housing demands.
- enables the planning of national transport demands.
- is a snapshot of the diversity of the country.
The measurement of population characteristics - 3
For businesses and commerce, a census:
- can be linked to other data sources, such as credit card data, to provide information on regional lifestyles.
- enables targeted marketing, based on postcode areas.
- enables the insurance industry to assess risk more effectively.
- enables retailers to invest in optimum locations where spending power is highest.
- allows firms to target goods to stores according to the profile of the population. For example, supermarkets stock more prepared foods in areas where there are greater numbers of young single adults.