Statistical Sampling


What are the advantages and disadvantages of doing a census? Surely the more data the better

2 years ago


19 Replies




Hailee Kutch

19 Answers

Liz R Profile Picture
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The advantages of doing a census are that you know about your whole population and so there is clarity about what you are trying to find out.

However, there are many disadvantages to a census. They are often expensive and time-consuming to carry out because of their size. You may not be able to access the whole population you are interested in because you don't know who they are e.g. people with a particular illness - some will not know they have it, or will have chosen not to reveal they have. You may destroy the elements of your population to find out what you want to know e.g. Is an egg rotten? Hence most of the time a sample is far more practical.

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Joseph B Profile Picture
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Often taking a full census will be impractical. Imagine if you want to know the mean or median mass of an adult starling in your area. Starlings flock in the thousands, so catching and weighing all of them, even a single flock, would be time and cost prohibitive, when you could get a pretty good idea by catching a hundred or so at as close to random as possible.

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Alan H Profile Picture
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You're right that more data often seems better, but with a census, there are both upsides and downsides:


  1. Gives a Complete Picture: A census gives a full snapshot of the population, which is great for understanding the entire society.
  2. Better Planning: It helps governments make smarter decisions about where to put resources like schools, hospitals, and roads.


  1. Cost and Time: It's really expensive and time-consuming to count everyone.
  2. Accuracy: Sometimes, the data isn't perfect. People might not give correct information, or some might be missed.
  3. Privacy: People might not like sharing personal details, which can affect the quality of the data.

So, while having a lot of data from a census is useful, it's not always easy or perfect.

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Nick Goodbourne

It gives a general idea of what the subject matter is about

Adam Hobbs

You're absolutely right, the more data the better, which makes a census the most accurate type of data collection! However, logistically, it would be extremely difficult to conduct one; it would be expensive and time-consuming.

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Although taking a census is better for getting the most statistically accurate results, a census requires taking data from the whole population; which is time-consuming and expensive.

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Kristan Lynch

Advantages - Completely representative and accurate of the entire population. Disadvantages - expensive, time-consuming, bad if testing destroys the products (e.g. ripeness of avocados)

Ugne Kurkauskaite

Yes, a census gives us the most accurate data possible, but what if our population is large? It would be very time-consuming and almost impossible to find every single member of a population and record our data.

Jack Gamblin

Advantages: is the most representative of all as everyone in the entire population is used. Therefore there is little bias and chance has no effect on the data collected.

Disadvantages: It is very time consuming to collect data from every individual within the entire population and is also very expensive to do so, It is one of the reasons why in the UK there is only a census every decade.

Hope this helps!

Nafeesa Islam

The advantages of a census is that it is the most accurate data observation, as you have tested every member in a population. The disadvantages are that you may end up destroying or using up every thing of a population, for example, using a census to test if a phone will break if dropped from a certain height may result in all phones being destroyed, which isn’t suitable. This is why samples are taken, so that only a certain amount of the population may be adversely affected.

Amirah Ennaouri

Advantages: The sole purpose of a census is to take every member of the population into account. This gives completely accurate results.

Disadvantages: It's a lot of data being collected so the process is time consuming but also expensive. A census would not be suitable if the testing process destroys the items. Handling lots of data is harder than if it was smaller.

Harry Taylor

Whereas it is true that more data is better, a census is very time consuming and expensive to perform. This is why samples are usually used instead.

Iman Islam

A census entails measuring/observing every member of the population. It produces a completely accurate result, however, it does have it's disadvantages. The most obvious being that it is very time consuming and expensive to carry out. Also, in some cases it cannot be used, such as when testing process destroys the item. For example, if you're doing a test to see how long the batteries produced lasts, you would have to use each battery, and therefore render it unusable.

Robert Bono

A census asks/tests every member of a population which of course makes the results incredibly accurate. However, this can be incredibly expensive and time consuming, making it inappropriate for most general consumer research tasks. Furthermore, if testing a product in a way that means you can no longer sell it, for example cutting open apples, a census would of course mean that there would be none left to sell!

Matthew D Profile Picture
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Hi Hailee!

You're correct that the more data we have, the better and that's why taking a census provides the most accurate data. That is the advantage of a census - extremely reliable and accurate data.

The disadvantage of a census, however, is that it may be very costly, time-consuming or even impossible to carry out! For example, imagine trying to take a census where you measure the height of all blades of grass in the world. That would be so difficult and time-consuming to do!

Taking a census is also undesirable if the measurement process ends up destroying the object itself. For example, you may want to collect data on how deep in water a watch could be submerged before it broke. Testing a few watches is enough to give you a good idea of this. You would not want to test all watches though as then you'd end up destroying them all!

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