What can the Census teach researchers?

The Census. It’s compulsory and is conducted to “provide information on housing and population that government needs to develop policies, and to plan and run public services such as health and education,” according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), but what other value does it have for the research industry?

Mindi Chahal

The Census is a huge project which takes a vast amount of planning, it has its own marketing campaign and tracking measures are put in place to ensure 100 per cent return of the forms. The Market Research Society (MRS), recently held a seminar titled – Generating Value from the 2011 Census, to update researchers on how to get the most out of the results.

It might seem obvious that the value of the research is the massive amount of data you get from the entire country, but researchers can also learn in other areas. In his presentation, the founder of BarryAnalytics and chairman of the MRS Census & Geodemographics Group, Barry Leventhal, highlighted the reasons why the 2011 research was successful.

The ONS, which carries out the census in England and Wales, achieved 94 per cent response rate overall in 2011, the Census had increased publicity, and also provided an option for online completion.

Leventhal also showed the opportunities for time series analysis from 2001-2011, although these aren’t planned, and also more practical lessons to enhance market research. For example using Census data to profile the population to understand an area before conducting research, using demographic profiling to weight sample surveys to account for sample bias and integrating Census data into their own research and customer data.

There is no doubt that the Census is a valuable source of data for researchers, but as Leventhal suggests there are more lessons and value to be derived from the research itself.

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