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Difference between Census and Sampling

Practically every country in the world conducts censuses and sampling surveys on a regular
basis in order to get valuable data from and about their populations. This data is used by the
federal and state governments in making numerous decisions with regard to various health
care, housing, and educational issues, among others. While both these two data-gathering
methods essentially serve the same purpose, they have a number of differences with regard
to approach and methodology, as well as scope. These two methods may also differ in terms
of the variance in the data gathered, as you will see later.
Scope
A census involves the gathering of information from every person in a certain group. This
may include information on age, sex and language among others. A sample survey on the
other hand commonly involves gathering data from only a certain section of a particular
group.
Sampling Variance
The main advantage of a census is a virtually zero sampling variance, mainly because the
data used is drawn from the whole population. In addition, more precise detail can generally
be gathered about smaller groups of the population.
As for sampling, there is a possibility of sampling variance, since the data used is drawn from
only a small section of the population. This makes sampling a much less accurate form of
data collection than a census. In addition, the sample may be too small to provide an
accurate picture of the population.
Cost And Timetable
A census can be quite expensive to conduct, particularly for large populations. In most
cases, they are also a lot more time-consuming than sample surveys. Adding considerably
to the timetable is the necessity of gathering data from every single member of the
population. The huge scope of a census also makes it harder to maintain control of the
quality of the data. For instance, anyone who does not complete a census form will be visited
by a government representative who’s only job to is to gather census data.
A sample survey for its part costs quite a bit less than a census, since data is gathered from
a much smaller group of people. In addition, sample surveys generally take a much shorter
time to conduct, again given the smaller scope. This also means reduced requirements for
respondents, which in turn leads to better data monitoring and quality control.
Summary
Census
• Gathers information from every individual in a certain group
• Since data from the entire population is used, there is no sampling variance
• Provides detailed information about smaller groups
• Can be quite costly, particularly for large populations, due to census tally workers as
well as hiring temporary census home visitors
• Includes an uncomfortable visit from a government worker if the census is not filled
out on time
Sampling
• Gathers information from only a section of the population
• May have a significant degree of sample variance, since the data is derived from only
a small section of a population
• May not provide enough information about smaller groups or smaller geographical
sections of a place
• Costs much less than a census, since data is gathered from only a small section of a
group