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I'm creating this thread mainly to comment on the long-form census controversy from a non-political point of view. As a mathematician who probably cares and knows less about Canadian politics than anyone else in this forum, this is my opinion: A voluntary survey is completely USELESS, and even more so after it became the subject of a nationwide political debate.

 

An anti-conservative friend of mine wrote last week on facebook that he returned the short form and demanded a long form be sent to him. He thought he was making some kind of statement, but he is actually helping to make the survey even more useless.

 

I don't really blame him, since there is no way to make the long-form data meaningful anymore. It's better if we just forget about it, but I still have a question: how does this happen in a country full of smart people like Canada? I find it a bit scary actually. I would love to know your opinions on the subject.

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I think the main issue is that it was mandatory which isn't right. Point blank. The data being "useless" is a silly aspect. Even with it mandatory, does that really impact the responses? Take for instance the speed limit on the highway, it is mandatory too. But 75% or more of drivers are exceeding it. Mandatory doesn't equal filled-out. The "sensible" nature of Canadians in any way is relatively well established, so in reality, what would be the difference?

 

Another issue, is is the "useless" survey actually have any information that is in any way useful? There is a lot of data... but is it useful for any thing? Seeing examples of the questions in the long-form census in newspapers during that debate seemed irrelevant in the extreme.

Edited by Cyrus
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(...)

 

I don't really blame him, since there is no way to make the long-form data meaningful anymore. It's better if we just forget about it, but I still have a question: how does this happen in a country full of smart people like Canada? I find it a bit scary actually. I would love to know your opinions on the subject.

 

My feeling is that we live in the early days of the information and true freedom of expression age, where anyone with a computer can form some form of opinion about anything, and express it to a much larger audience than they ever could before. As individuals, we get a great feeling of empowerment out of it. The web connects us like never before. It makes access to information, any information, instantaneous. The Jasmine revolution has proven that it can organize people and can topple dictators. It has greatly supported economic growth.

 

However, I believe that while before, information was accessible and processed by a small clique, an elite group of intellectual, out of reach of the masses, the current democratization of vast amounts of information has resulted in the loss of the key elements of information indexation, hierarchy, context and perspective.

 

So even though I am not involved in the census process at all, I can now access all the history, the documents and the bulk of information related to the long form census (for example). And I now believe that I know as much as any of the stakeholders producing, distributing or using that information. Couple that with the fact that I now can have a near infinite audience and you have the perfect storm for over-confident people effectively being part of the decision making process (be it directly or indirectly) on issues to which they have only superficial knowledge.

 

Deep knowledge is something that is acquired over years of experience. The issue with the massive amount of information that we have access today is that we haven't yet learned, as a society, to interpret it.

We're like babies to which we give full access to the cookie jar.

 

The solution is obviously not to restrain access. For one, it is next to impossible and two, it is not desirable. We should embrace the information age but understand that people have to be taught differently (the education system has to adapt), and, basically, time has to pass, so we will mature and learn to take in all that information with more humility and perspective.

 

It may seem like a roundabout way to propose an answer to your question but I truly believe that is what is at play now: the issue is not with the clulessness of the Conservative in the matter. The issue is with the over confidence of the population in their thought process and analysis of all the information that they now have access to and in this case, thinking that they truly have the "full picture" on the issue of short vs long form census.

 

I think the phenomenon will accelerate before it abates; I foresee impacts in all the fields of knowledge traditionally owned by a highly educated elite, such as medicine (we'll see individuals questioning their doctors on diagnostics), law, engineering (the 9/11 "truthers" are the perfect example), physics, etc.

 

I have high hopes in the long run but I believe the next 10 years will be painful. There will need to be a concerted effort by people who have traditionally held that knowledge that is now available to all to offer the mentorship and the required perspective to all who are exposed to the information floodgate.

 

The danger would be to put the blame on transitory political parties that are merely the reflection of major underlying currents impacting our societies right now, and our collective inexperience in dealing with them.

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Cyrus, ta comparaison ne fait aucun sens. La statistique est une méthode scientifique. À rendre le questionnaire long volontaire, ton échantillon n'est plus représentatif, tu introduis un facteur indésirable qui gâche l'interprétation des résultats. Par exemple, nous pourrions faire l'hypothèse qu'une plus grande part de gens instruits vont être enclins à répondre volontairement à ce sondage long (c'est une supposition comme ça, on ne va pas en débattre). On s'entend que cela changerait les résultats et ces résultats ne seraient plus représentatifs. Sans compter que ton échantillon est réduit, ce qui entraîne de plus grandes erreurs.

 

Il n'y a aucune notion de "bien" ou de "mal" dans un recensement. C'est une compilation statistique et scientifique.

 

(Et oui, c'est pas dur de trouver des utilisations à ces données)

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I understand from Cyrus that there is room for debate on whether a "mandatory" survey (such as the short-form census, or in some places voting) has a relevance in practice, given that very few people follow the rules, or because the questions are stupid, and the important data is easily obtainable from more reliable sources. I totally agree that this can be debated!

 

However, what is the point of having a survey that is not reliable in THEORY (and as a consequence you cannot even begin to debate its relevance in practice)? If the long-form census questions are dumb, then it should be recommended for a complete removal from the census, rather than being made intrinsically irrelevant.

 

A completely different debate would be whether there should or shouldn't exist mandatory surveys or rules, which would be a political debate on anarchy, libertarianism, privacy and such. We all probably agree on the common sense aspects of these philosophies, and very few people agree completely on any of them. But then again, this is not the topic of my post. What I am actually debating is in bold above. Anyone with a basic understanding of statistics can rigorously prove the theoretical irrelevance of the current voluntary long-form survey.

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What is the difference in the long form and short form? To be honest, I have yet to fill one out, so I have no idea what the long form has over the short form.

 

I know that the 2006 census had these questions, in some form or another:

- Aboriginal peoples

- Age and sex

- Education (including educational attainment)

- Ethnic origin and visible minorities

- Families and households

- Housing and shelter costs

- Immigration and citizenship

- Income and earnings

- Labour (including labour market activity, industry and occupation)

- Language (including language of work)

- Marital status (including common-law status)

- Mobility and migration

- Place of work and commuting to work (including mode of transportation)

- Population and dwelling counts

 

So what does the 2011 have?

 

(update) Found the answer to my question.

 

Census 2011:

- Population and dwelling counts

- Age and sex

- Families, households and marital status

- Structural type of dwelling and collectives

- Language

 

I am surprised the income did not make it onto the list.

 

Thing is, I wouldn't mind still having the long form census, at least you get more details about other Canadians.

Edited by jesseps
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^^^ You don't need income, you already filed your tax return ;)

 

I understand from Cyrus that there is room for debate on whether a "mandatory" survey (such as the short-form census, or in some places voting) has a relevance in practice, given that very few people follow the rules, or because the questions are stupid, and the important data is easily obtainable from more reliable sources. I totally agree that this can be debated!

 

However, what is the point of having a survey that is not reliable in THEORY (and as a consequence you cannot even begin to debate its relevance in practice)? If the long-form census questions are dumb, then it should be recommended for a complete removal from the census, rather than being made intrinsically irrelevant.

 

A completely different debate would be whether there should or shouldn't exist mandatory surveys or rules, which would be a political debate on anarchy, libertarianism, privacy and such. We all probably agree on the common sense aspects of these philosophies, and very few people agree completely on any of them. But then again, this is not the topic of my post. What I am actually debating is in bold above. Anyone with a basic understanding of statistics can rigorously prove the theoretical irrelevance of the current voluntary long-form survey.

 

OK then let's remove it :P I'd still argue that theoretical irrelevance is... irrelevant and only the actual irrelevance is relevant (how can irrelevance be relevant :P) I mean... do some statistics, maybe have a census form question asking if they would fill a long census and try to find out how many people will do it if forced, and not do it when just asked.

 

Cyrus, ta comparaison ne fait aucun sens. La statistique est une méthode scientifique. À rendre le questionnaire long volontaire, ton échantillon n'est plus représentatif, tu introduis un facteur indésirable qui gâche l'interprétation des résultats. Par exemple, nous pourrions faire l'hypothèse qu'une plus grande part de gens instruits vont être enclins à répondre volontairement à ce sondage long (c'est une supposition comme ça, on ne va pas en débattre). On s'entend que cela changerait les résultats et ces résultats ne seraient plus représentatifs. Sans compter que ton échantillon est réduit, ce qui entraîne de plus grandes erreurs.

 

Il n'y a aucune notion de "bien" ou de "mal" dans un recensement. C'est une compilation statistique et scientifique.

 

(Et oui, c'est pas dur de trouver des utilisations à ces données)

 

Je comprends ca tres bien. Mon point c'etait que, etant donne qu'une questionnaire volontaire va avoir un taux de reponse inferieure a 100 %, c'est faux d'assumer qu'une questionnaire obligatoire va avoir un taux de 100%. Peut-etre on parle de 70 % contre 90 % ou quelquechose du genre. Dans les deux cas, le facteur indesirable, ou bien le facteur "j'en ai pas le temps pour ces conneries" existe. Mon autre point c'etait l'utilite de ces statistiques qu'on recolte. On vit dans une economie capitaliste, donc le marche comble tout les statistiques necessaires pour le production des biens et services sans recours a la loi. Quel sort de statistiques avons-nous besoin pour assurer un gouvernement efficace? Il y a des services qu'on achete chez le gouvernement, genre le reseau routier et la systeme de sante, mais dans ces cas, generalement, les statistiques necessaires on les prend a la source (un compteur de voitures sur la route, le paperasse de l'hopital)...

 

Meanwhile in the National Post:

 

Is the National Household Survey better than the long-form census?

Fotolia

 

Fotolia

 

Census forms should be in your mailboxes soon.

 

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Sarah-Taïssir Bencharif May 10, 2011 – 1:34 PM ET | Last Updated: May 10, 2011 1:48 PM ET

 

Check your mailbox: you’ve got mail. This month, more than 15 million Canadian households received the new mandatory short-form census; of them, 4.5 million receive the National Household Survey (NHS) that replaced the long-form census.

 

The NHS is virtually identical to the long-form census except for one fact: the NHS is optional. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decision to scrap the mandatory long-form census was based on the belief that Canadians shouldn’t be forced to answer what some consider to be invasive questions. Below, Sarah-Taïssir Bencharif offers five reasons why census proponents bemoan the change, and five reasons why mandatory-census critics are celebrating:

 

What we may not know as clearly

 

1. What are Canadians’ backgrounds?

The mandatory short-form census does not have any questions about the ethnic and racial makeup of the country. This paints a profile of Canada over time.

 

2. Does having more education mean you’ll make more money?

When used with income level, researchers can determine the relationship between income and level of education for different groups and how it changes with time. For instance, when combined with employment data, researchers can see if Canadians and new immigrants are working in their field or not. “When people immigrate to Canada, what is their educational background and what might they require to integrate the labour market?” said Marc Hamel, the census manager.

 

3. How do second-generation Canadians do in comparison to their parents?

The number of immigrants and non-permanent residents in Canada, along with the year of immigration, allows for the comparison of the situation of immigrants over time. “If you want to analyze integration into canadian society from a labour market point of view, it provides some background to that effect, for example. So you can see after one generation, or after 30 years, how people are integrating into society,” said Mr. Hamel.

 

4. How long is the average commute to work and how can we make it more efficient?

“Where do the people live and where do they go to work? Based on that information, city planners will make decisions about roads, bridges, public transportation to fit the patterns of commuting of the population,” said Mr. Hamel.

 

5. Where should you set up your business?

Businesses and advertisers regularly use census information to reach their target audience, be it by age, ethnic group, or income level. That’s how Starbucks knows where to open its next shop.

 

Why critics believe the long-form survey deserved to be scrapped

 

1. The long-form was too intrusive

The mandatory long-form census asked intrusive questions about race, ethnicity, income and even whether health problems got in the way of your daily activities. “A lot of people, to be honest, don’t like government, they don’t like government, they don’t like government intrusion in their lives,” said Peter Coleman, president and CEO of the National Citizens’ Coalition.

 

2. The threat of jail time and fines for not answering a survey were excessive.

“As long as that threat was there, I’m not sure you get the best information,” said Mr. Coleman, adding that banks and insurance companies do a lot of successful voluntary surveys. “When you live in a civilized country like Canada, the so-called threat of jail or fine is old and archaic,” he said.

 

3. The questions could be outdated

“You need to get a better idea of what’s really going on by those who are paying the bills and what things are important to them as far as financial issues, job issues, it can be public transit, it can be research and development, it can be a whole bunch of areas,” said Mr. Coleman. “I’m not sure all those questions are being asked. It seems to be a lot of pure demographic questions and I’m not sure that’s the best use of taxpayers’ time.”

 

4. The short-form gets the original job done

The mandatory short-form still accomplishes the original task of the census. The census is a head count of Canada to collect the basic demographic information about Canadians and to manage political representation based on population.

 

5. The information is available elsewhere

The government can get some of the information obtained from the long-form census otherwise, like from property and rental records. Administering and analyzing the long-form census is an additional expense.

Edited by Cyrus
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Je comprends ca tres bien. Mon point c'etait que, etant donne qu'une questionnaire volontaire va avoir un taux de reponse inferieure a 100 %, c'est faux d'assumer qu'une questionnaire obligatoire va avoir un taux de 100%. Peut-etre on parle de 70 % contre 90 % ou quelquechose du genre. Dans les deux cas, le facteur indesirable, ou bien le facteur "j'en ai pas le temps pour ces conneries" existe. Mon autre point c'etait l'utilite de ces statistiques qu'on recolte. On vit dans une economie capitaliste, donc le marche comble tout les statistiques necessaires pour le production des biens et services sans recours a la loi. Quel sort de statistiques avons-nous besoin pour assurer un gouvernement efficace? Il y a des services qu'on achete chez le gouvernement, genre le reseau routier et la systeme de sante, mais dans ces cas, generalement, les statistiques necessaires on les prend a la source (un compteur de voitures sur la route, le paperasse de l'hopital)...

 

Honnêtement, il faudrait savoir les chiffres de Statistiques Canada sur les anciens recensements, ils doivent avoir les chiffres sur les questionnaires invalides (ceux non-remplis, ou etc). Ensuite comparer avec le recensement volontaire. N'empêche, si le 90% hypothétique d'un questionnaire obligatoire est bien réparti, les données sont plutôt pertinentes, contrairement à un 70% volontaire avec certaines tendances fortes au niveau des répondants. Mais bon, c'est de la supposition sans voir tous les chiffres...

 

Pour la pertinence des résultats et l'utilisation, c'est un débat plutôt complexe. Il est difficile d'avoir une idée précise de la population canadienne, des mouvements importants socio-culturels, de la migration, etc, sans une vue d'ensemble, et ces chiffres perdent en précision avec les années sans un recensement global. Mais je comprends aussi ton point de vue.

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  • 1 month later...

Il y a quelques semaines j'etais en train de vider un maison des residus de construction, dans la tas j'ai trouve une envelloppe du "Recensement 2011" avec un grand formulaire dedans, le j'ai mis dans le bac de recyclage :P

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