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Background

Census Transformation in New Zealand

In March 2012 the New Zealand Government agreed to a Census Transformation strategy. This strategy has two strands:

  • a focus in the short-to-medium term on modernising the current census model and making it more efficient
  • a longer-term focus on investigating alternative ways of producing small-area population and social and economic statistics. This includes the possibility of changing the census frequency to every 10 years, and exploring the feasibility of a census based on administrative data (Statistics New Zealand, 2012).

The next census in 2018 will be significantly modernised, including an online completion target of 70 percent and re-use of administrative data to support collection and processing.

Continuing to meet critical information needs must underpin decisions on the future of census. Investigations into the long-term direction for census are focused on developing an understanding of future census information requirements, and the ability of administrative sources to meet those requirements.

Read more about Census Transformation in New Zealand.

About this paper

Ethnicity is a core demographic variable for describing the New Zealand population. Ethnicity data collected by the census is widely used and is the basis for official population statistics by ethnicity. In an administrative-based census, ethnicity would have to be obtained from administrative sources. This paper compares ethnicity data from the 2013 Census with the ethnicity information collected by administrative sources currently available in Statistics NZ’s Integrated Data Infrastructure.

We describe how the main administrative sources collect ethnicity data, and compare this against the formal ethnicity standard: the statistical standard for ethnicity. We show rates of agreement between administrative sources and the census using the 2013 Census data linked to the administrative sources. Finally, we discuss the problem of combining ethnicity information from multiple administrative sources and evaluate some alternatives.

This paper is one of a series of investigations as part of the Census Transformation programme. The programme explores the potential for administrative data sources to provide census-type information.

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