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ENPL 313: Rural Community Economic Development: Special case: the 2011 Census

Elimination of the mandatory long-form census

Historically, there have been two mandatory census forms: the short form, which was sent to all Canadian households, and the long form, which was sent to 20% of Canadian households.  There was only a mandatory short form for the 2011 Census.  The questions that were traditionally asked in the mandatory long form were moved to a voluntary National Household Survey (NHS).  (The exception to this was the language questions, which were added to the mandatory short form.)

The NHS was discontinued in 2016 when the mandatory long-form census was reinstated for the 2016 Census.


Things to Consider When Using NHS Data

The use of a voluntary NHS in 2011 has important implications for this assignment.  Up to 2006, labour data was collected as part of the mandatory long-form census.  In 2011, labour data was collected as part of the voluntary NHS

There are differences in methodology between a mandatory census and a voluntary survey, and students, researchers, and policy makers need to be aware of the following when using and interpreting NHS data.  The first two bullets are quoted from an e-mail from a Statistics Canada official.

  • "The target population for the 2011 Census includes usual residents in collective dwellings and persons living abroad, whereas the target population for the NHS excludes them."
  • "The NHS estimates are derived from a sample survey and are therefore subject to sampling error; they are also subject to potentially higher non-response error than in the census due to the survey's voluntary nature."
  • Caution should be used when comparing NHS data to other censuses, especially when it comes to data for small geographies.  See "Comparability of the NHS estimates" in the National Household Survey User Guide for more information.  Both subsections, "Comparability of the NHS estimates and the 2006 Census" and "Discrepancy between 2011 Census counts and 2011 NHS estimates" are important when considering the quality and comparability of the data.
  • Pay attention to the Global Non-Response RateThe higher the rate, the greater the risk of non-response bias. 
  • Note that Statistics Canada did not release any data for geographic areas with a global non-response rate of 50 percent or higher.  See the Geographic areas not released page.  Of particular interest for many students and researchers at UNBC will be the list of the BC census subdivisions (CSDs) for which data was not released.  (To determine the reason for data suppression, click on the notes in the "Reason for no release" column.)

As you review the above links, think about the implications for your community.  For instance, if your community had a global non-response rate of 49.9, you might want to discuss possible issues with the data in your report.  The nature of your community (for instance, the extent of homogeneity of the population) will have a bearing on how serious these issues might be.

Note: If you have chosen a community where the data has been suppressed due to a global non-response rate of 50 percent or higher, it is still possible to retrieve data for your community.  Whether or not you will want to do so will depend upon your conclusions regarding the quality of the data based on the above information. To retrieve data for a community with a global non-response rate of 50 percent or higher:

  • Connect to the Data Liberation Initiative site.  (You will need to authenticate with your UNBC user id and password.)
  • Click on DLI Beyond 20/20 Web Data Server (WDS).
  • Click on the Social Surveys folder.
  • Click on the National Household Survey (NHS) folder.
  • Click on the NHS Profile folder.
  • Click on 2011 NHS Semi-custom Profile for Canada, Provinces, Territories, Census Divisions, Census Subdivisions and Dissemination Areas, National Household Survey, 2011 (all GNRs).
  • The resulting table will display the Profile data for all geographies.  To download the data for just your community,
    1. Click on the Select items to view icon (first icon at the top of the table), and select Geography.
    2. Click on the "x" at the top of the list to deselect all geographies, type the name of your community into the search box, click the Search button, select your community from the resulting list, and click on the Show table button.
    3. Click on the Select items to view icon (first icon at the top of the table), and select 2011 NHS.
    4. Click on the "x" at the top of the list to deselect all variables, scroll down the list to find the labour-related variables, select the variables you would like to be included in your table, and click on the Show table button.
    5. You should now have a table displaying just the data that you want to download.  Now you may click on the Download icon (third from the left) to select the format in which you would like to download your data. 


Mandatory Long Form vs Voluntary Survey: History of a Decision

Some links for those interested in the history of the decision to move from a mandatory long-form census to a voluntary survey:


Since the Oct. 19, 2015 election:

  • Globe & Mail article, Oct. 21, 2015 about interviews with two former chief statisticians of Statistics Canada regarding the feasibility of reinstating the mandatory long-form census in time for the 2016 Census.

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