Something of a compromise on the census?

This is a significant improvement, given that income reporting through tax returns should be more accurate than self-reporting. Of course, the broader issues related to the NHS versus Census remain:

But StatsCan has made one notable change to the process.

. . . in order to reduce the time required and to make it easier for Canadians to respond to the National Household Survey, income questions will be replaced with more precise tax and benefit data that have been available to Statistics Canada since 1985. As this will be done for all Canadians, income information for 2016 will be the most accurate in the history of the census.

What does this mean?

Within the 2011 national household survey were various questions about income. But respondents were also given the option to skip those, if they agreed to let Statistics Canada access information already provided in their tax filings.

… In addition to saving respondents time, StatsCan says it will save the agency money. In the case of 2016, income data will be linked to census responses.

Liberal MP Ted Hsu had proposed a private member’s bill to, among other things, reinstate the long-form census. That bill was defeated in February, but, at the time, he told me about a possible compromise: adding some number of questions to the short-form census to provide a better statistical basis. UBC economist Kevin Milligan dubbed this the “medium-form census” and Milligan says he’s somewhat pleased with the change. “I think it is a step toward a medium-form census,” he says. “If I couldn’t have a long-form census, and I was asked for one change to the short form, this is what I would have asked for.”

Hsu would still rather have the long-form census—something the Liberals are committed to reinstating if they form government—and notes that the voluntary nature of the NHS will still create problems. Hsu also thinks it would be useful to link tax and benefit data to the NHS so that income could be correlated with dwelling, education and labour market information. Milligan would also rather have income data linked to the NHS, but says, “Having it for short form gets you pretty close to the tools you need to make some decent weights that make all the other surveys (like NHS) more useful.”

And though Hsu doesn’t think the use of tax and benefit information is a big deal, he does think there needs to be a conversation about possible privacy implications if the government moves further to use administrative data that it already possesses. Back in 2010, when debate arose over the government’s decision to eliminate the long-form census, the Scandinavian model of data collection and use raised as a possible alternative, but the databases maintained by those countries might raise questions for Canadians about the handling of personal information.

Something of a compromise on the census? –

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: