The question of whether to carry out a quinquennial Census is faced by national statistical offices in increasingly many countries, including Canada, Nigeria, Ireland, Australia, and South Africa. We describe uses and limitations of cost-benefit analysis in this decision problem in the case of the 2016 Census of South Africa. The government of South Africa needed to decide whether to conduct a 2016 Census or to rely on increasingly inaccurate postcensal estimates accounting for births, deaths, and migration since the previous (2011) Census. The cost-benefit analysis compared predicted costs of the 2016 Census to the benefits of improved allocation of intergovernmental revenue, which was considered by the government to be a critical use of the 2016 Census, although not the only important benefit. Without the 2016 Census, allocations would be based on population estimates. Accuracy of the postcensal estimates was estimated from the performance of past estimates, and the hypothetical expected reduction in errors in allocation due to the 2016 Census was estimated. A loss function was introduced to quantify the improvement in allocation. With this evidence, the government was able to decide not to conduct the 2016 Census, but instead to improve data and capacity for producing post-censal estimates.
If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.
Alho J.M. and B.D. Spencer. 2005. Statistical Demography and Forecasting. New York: Springer.
Bakker C. 2014. Valuing the Census. Wellington: Statistics New Zealand. Available at: www.stats.govt.nz.
Berger J.O. 1985. Statistical Decision Theory and Bayesian Analysis. 2nd ed. New York: Springer.
Bhutta Z.A. J.K. Das A. Rizvi M.F. Gaff N. Walker S. Horton P. Webb A. Lartey and R.E. Black. 2013. “Evidence-based Interventions for Improvement of Maternal and Child Nutrition: What Can Be Done and at What Cost?” Lancet 382: 452-477.
Bradshaw D. D. Bourne and N. Nannan. 2003. “What Are the Leading Causes of Death among South African Children?” MRC Policy Brief No 3. Medical Research Council Bellville.
Buehler J.W. and D.R. Holtgrave. 2007. “Challenges in Defining an Optimal Approach to Formula-Based Allocations of Public Health Funds in the United States.” BMC Public Health 7: 44. Doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-7-44.
Cope I. 2015. The Value of Census Statistics in England and Wales. Note by the Office for National Statistics United Kingdom. United Nations Economic and Social Council 4 September 2015. Report ECE/CES/GE.41/2015/16. Available at: https://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/stats/documents/ece/ces/ge.41/2015/mtg1/CES_GE.41_2015_16_-_UK.pdf (accessed 25 March 2016).
Dickens C. 1985. Bleak House. 1852-53. New York: Penguin.
Downes T.A. and T.E. Pogue. 2002. “How Best to Hand Out Money: Issues in the Design and Structure of Intergovernmental Aid Formulas.” Journal of Official Statistics 18: 329-352.
General Register Office for Scotland. 2006. 2011 Census Business Case. Prepared by John Aldridge Consultant July 2006. Available at: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/8345/response/20302/attach/3/business%20case.pdf (accessed 8 March 2016).
Kruskal W.H. 1984. “The Census as a National Ceremony.” In Federal Statistics and National Needs prepared for the Subcommittee on Energy Nuclear Proliferation and Government Processes an arm of the Committee on Government Affairs of the United State Senate by the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress 177-180. Washington DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
Manski C.F. 2011. “Actualist Rationality.” Theory and Decision 71: 195-210.
May J. M. Dimbabo J. Tamri G. Wright Z. Seeskin and B.D. Spencer. 2013. Cost Benefit Analysis of South Africa’s Population Census Final Report 21 May 2013. Bellville South Africa: Institute for Social Development University of the Western Cape.
May J. and P. Lehohla. 2005. “Counting the Costs of a 21st Century Census: South Africa’s Census 2001.” Development Southern Africa 22: 215-232.
McCaa R. A. Esteve S. Ruggles and M. Sobek. 2006. “Using Integrated Census Microdata for Evidence-Based Policy Making: The IPUMS-International Global Initiative.” The African Statistical Journal 2: 83-100.
Melnick D. 2002. “The Legislative Process and the use of Indicators in Formula Allocations.” Journal of Official Statistics 18: 353-370.
Ministry for Welfare and Population Development. 1998. White Paper on Population Policy. 7 September 1998. Pretoria: Government Gazette.
National Research Council. 1980. Estimating Population and Income of Small Areas. Panel on Small-Area Estimates of Population and Income Committee on National Statistics. Washington DC: The National Academies Press.
National Research Council. 1985. Natural Gas Data Needs in a Changing Regulatory Environment. Panel on Statistics on Natural Gas Committee on National Statistics. Washington DC: The National Academies Press.
National Research Council. 2003. Statistical Issues in Allocating Funds by Formula. Panel on Formula Allocations edited by T.A. Louis T.B. Jabine and M.A. Gerstein. Committee on National Statistics Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington DC: The National Academies Press.
National Treasury. 2013. Annexure W1 to the Budget Review: Explanatory Memorandum to the Division of Revenue National Treasury Pretoria. Available at: http://www.treasury.gov.za/documents/national%20budget/2013/review/Annexure%20W1.pdf (accessed 1 August 2016).
National Treasury. 2015. Website Annexure to the 2015 Budget Review: Explanatory Memorandum to the Division of Revenue National Treasury Pretoria. Available at: http://www.treasury.gov.za/documents/national%20budget/2015/review/Annexure%20W1.pdf (accessed 1 March 2015).
Nigerian Tribune. 2016. “Towards a Credible Census.” Available at: http://tribuneonlineng.com/towards-credible-census/ (accessed 16 January 2017).
Parliament of the Republic of South Africa. 2014. Announcements Tablings and Committee Reports No. 95-2014 [First Session Fifth Parliament 19 November 2014] 3402 Cape Town. Available at: http://www.parliament.gov.za/live/commonrepository/Processed/20141124/593735_1.pdf (accessed 2 March 2015).
Parliament of the United Kingdom. 2009. Draft Census (England and Wales) Order 2009 etc - Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee. Available at: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200809/ldselect/ldmerit/176/17606.htm (accessed 8 March 2016).
Redfern P. 1974. “The Different Roles of Population Censuses and Interview Surveys Particularly in the U.K. Context.” International Statistics Review 42: 131-146.
Savage I.R. 1985. “Hard-Soft Problems.” Journal of the American Statistical Association 80: 1-7.
Say L. and R. Raine. 2007. “A Systematic Review of Inequalities in the Use of Maternal Health Care in Developing Countries: Examining the Scale of the Problem and the Importance of Context.” Bulletin of the World Health Organization 85: 812-817.
Schirm A.L. A.M. Zaslavsky and J.L. Czajka. 1999. “Large Numbers of Estimates for Small Areas.” Proceedings of the 1999 FCSM Research Conference. Available at: https://fcsm.sites.usa.gov/files/2014/05/IV-A_Schirm_FCSM1999.pdf (accessed 7 March 2016).
Seeskin Z.H. and B.D. Spencer. 2015. “Effects of Census Accuracy on Apportionment of Congress and Allocations of Federal Funds.” Institute for Policy Research Working Paper WP- 15-05. Evanston IL: Northwestern University. Available at: http://www.ipr.northwestern.edu/publications/papers/2015/ipr-wp-15-05.html (accessed 8 March 2016).
Sims C.A. 1984. “Can We Measure the Benefits of Data Programs?” In Proceedings of the Social Statistics Section: American Statistical Association 60-67. Washington D.C.: American Statistical Association.
Spencer B.D. 1980a. Benefit-Cost Analysis of Data Used to Allocate Funds. New York: Springer.
Spencer B.D. 1980b. “Effects of Biases in Census Estimates on Evaluation of Postcensal Estimates.” In National Research Council 1980 Estimating Population and Income of Small Areas. Panel on Small-Area Estimates of Population and Income: 232-6. Committee on National Statistics Assembly of Behavioral and Social Sciences. Washington D.C.: The National Academy Press.
Spencer B.D. 1980c. “Implications of Equity and Accuracy for Undercount Adjustment: A Decision- Theoretic Approach.” In U.S. Bureau of the Census Conference on Census Undercount: Proceedings of the 1980 Conference: 204-216. Washington D.C. U.S. Department of Commerce.
Spencer B.D. 1982a. “Feasibility of Benefit-Cost Analysis of Data Programs.” Evaluation Review 6: 649-672.
Spencer B.D. 1982b. “Technical Issues in Allocation Formula Design.” Public Administration Review 4: 524-529.
Spencer B.D. 1985. “Statistical Aspects of Equitable Apportionment.” Journal of the American Statistical Association 80: 815-822.
Stats SA. 2011. Mid-Year Population Estimates 2011. Report P0302. Pretoria: Statistics South Africa.
Stats SA. 2012a. Census 2011 Census in Brief. Report 03-01-41. Pretoria: Statistics South Africa.
Stats SA. 2012b. CENSUS 2011: Post Enumeration Survey Report 03-01-46. Pretoria: Statistics South Africa.
Stats SA. 2014a. Annual Report 2013/2014 (Book 1). Pretoria: Statistics South Africa. Available at: http://www.gov.za/sites/www.gov.za/files/STATSAnnual_Report_2013-2014.pdf (accessed 2 March 2015).
Stats SA. 2014b. “Population Household Surveys in the Case of South Africa.” Presentation at the Workshop on Strengthening the Collection and Use of International Migration Data for Development 18-21 November 2014 Addis Ababa Ethiopia. Available at: http:// www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/migration/events/other/workshop/docs/Session%20VI%20South%20Africa.pdf (accessed 3 March 2015).
Stats SA. 2016. Community Survey 2016: Technical Report 03-01-01 Statistics South Africa Pretoria. Available at: http://cs2016.statssa.gov.za/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/CS-2016-Technical-report_Web.pdf (accessed 1 August 2016).
The Globe and Mail. 2011. “Traditional Census the Only Option for 2016 Statistics Canada Says.” Available at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/traditional-census-the-only-option-for-2016-statistics-canada-says/article556243/ (accessed 4 March 2015).
The Guardian. 2015. “Census in Doubt as 10-year Data Collection Is Considered.” Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/feb/19/census-in-2016-indoubt-as-10-year-data-collection-considered (accessed 4 March 2015).
The Journal. 2012. “2016 Census May Be Delayed in Government Spending Review.” Available at: http://www.thejournal.ie/2016-census-may-be-delayed-in-governmentspending-review-455663-May2012/ (accessed 4 March 2015).
Yemek E. 2005. Understanding Fiscal Decentralisation in South Africa. IDASA Budget Information Service Occasional Paper. Cape Town: Institute for Democratic Alternatives in South Africa. Available at: http://www.gsdrc.org/docs/open/CC107.pdf (accessed 1 March 2015).
Zaslavsky A.M. and A.L. Schirm. 2002. “Interactions between Survey Estimates and Federal Funding Formulas.” Journal of Official Statistics 18: 371-391.