A census is a government-sponsored, mandatory survey of every person living in a certain region. It is a way to count and describe the people in a population at a certain moment.
Census Sociology Definition


A census is a government-sponsored, mandatory survey of every person living in a certain region. It is a way to count and describe the people in a population at a certain moment.


The Bible and early civilizations in China, Egypt, India, and Rome made references to holding censuses considerably earlier than the first modern census, which was carried out in Quebec in 1666. The first census in the US was taken in 1790, and the next one in the UK and France was taken in 1801.

A census is an inventory of all households in a clearly defined area at a certain period. This phrase is often used to refer to every citizen’s state-sponsored, universal, and required survey. Because they include everyone and require responses from everyone, censuses are very helpful for social scientists.

The data acquired in this way is far more comprehensive than inferred from any sociological survey. We may also assess the representativeness of survey samples based on factors like age, gender, religion, and employment using the standards it gives us. However, there can be issues with compliance since individuals might not want to participate in the census and provide inaccurate or misleading information as a result.

For the sociologist, the census has a variety of significant applications, such as:

1. Investigations into social class;

2. Examination of evolving patterns in housing, education, and employment

3. Study of certain groups 

Since 1790, the US has conducted a comprehensive national census every 10 years. Census results may include additional specific questions in addition to counting the population. When released, census statistics are extensively utilized by many groups, including the government, and they prove to be a useful source of knowledge, especially for forecasting changes in social and health patterns.

Nevertheless, despite follow-up efforts and the fact that persons are compelled by law to contribute information, a census will always have a substantial nonresponse rate. For instance, it is believed that the US population was undercounted by 1.6% in 1990.

Census data may be gathered in person, over the phone, or by mail-out questionnaires. Every home in the country receives a questionnaire for the US census every ten years.  By phone or in-person interviews, census enumerators follow up with homes that do not return their forms. 

Due to rising privacy and confidentiality concerns, census response rates have decreased recently in the United States and many other nations. A national census has not been taken in the Netherlands since 1971 due to rising privacy and human rights concerns among the populace.

The questionnaire includes may ask about age, sex or race, marital status, birth location, relationship, education level, profession, religion,  or ethnicity and are normally answered by the household head or “reference” person. Each household member’s information is gathered separately.

A census may be carried out in two different ways. In a “de facto” enumeration, persons are recorded in real homes when the census is taken. Residents are allocated to their “usual residence in a “de jure” enumeration. The de facto technique is used in the United Kingdom, whereas the de jure method is used in Canada, Mexico, and the United States.

Every home receives a form to gather data for the UK Census. One person had to respond to many questions on behalf of the home in 2001, and each person had to answer 35 questions. In the USA, two versions are used for the 2000 Census: most households received the shorter form, which included seven questions, while around one in six received the lengthier form.

The census has also developed into a productive subject for historical study, cliometrics, demographic studies, economics, and sociological research.

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