Do we really trust Census 2018?

With 10% of people not filling out Census 2018, will we trust the results?

The Census 2018 miscount is likely to be concentrated on harder to measure minorities and vulnerable groupings. Precisely the people we worry most about when allocating central government funding and measuring social outcomes.

Waiting 15 months post-Census before we even get an announcement of a release date gives me little confidence in the state of what Statistics NZ has to work with.

Over recent months I have been advising local government and regional development decision makers to have contingency plans for if Statistics NZ fails to deliver a meaningful set of Census 2018 data.

It now appears that the dataset will be abridged, and beyond headline figures a patchwork of gaps will be filled in using other administrative datasets.

But there lies the crux of the problem. Those that were missed by the Census are likely to be the same people that are underrepresented in other datasets.

Just how many billions of dollars of central and local government decision making is affected by this stuff up is not taken seriously enough.

I urge the government to invest in another Census as soon as possible – one that follows tried and true methods.

In the meantime, many local authorities and development agencies will be forced to use other indicators as proxies for Census measures in their planning and monitoring work.

Benje Patterson is an economist, strategist and storyteller. He is an expert at guiding organisations through the myriad of public and commercial regional data that is available.