News from Cass Business School

A new method for counting populations

Proposed technique utilises existing data available in all local authorities

In the wake of the recent UK Census, two Cass academics have developed a new approach  for counting populations which is more timely, detailed and cost efficient than the existing Census.

The authors of this research, Professor Les Mayhew and Gillian Harper, a former ESRC funded research fellow at Cass, use locally available administrative records such as the GP register, Council Tax records, school pupil roll, and property gazetteers to achieve their results. They have recently been awarded contracts by the six Olympic boroughs to deploy their methodology to count the population of east London.

Professor Mayhew said: "Local authorities and health providers rely on good quality population statistics to identify need, profile populations and deliver services. Local and central government use population figures to allocate budgets to health and education services, design and situate services and monitor trends.

"The processing of information from the 2011 Census is underway but it is also likely to be the last of its kind as the government seeks more cost effective and accurate ways of counting the population."

Counting the population in London has become harder in recent years due to migration influxes, language barriers, high population turnover and net growth. The academics' data will be used as an independent check on the Census and also as a shared resource to plan and deliver services to the population of east London. The data will act as a baseline so that the impact of the Olympic legacy can be measured in a few years time.

The 2011 UK Census is estimated to cost the UK taxpayer almost £500 million and is only conducted once every ten years. Using the Cass academics' approach it would be possible to conduct counts twice a year for less than this amount with results available within six months, rather than two years.

Professor Mayhew said: "Our method is current, economical and frequently repeatable and also has the advantage of capturing people directly from extensive databases based on their presence at an address rather than relying on representatives from each household to complete and return the forms."

Further information regarding this population estimation model, including applications, can be found in two peer reviewed papers published this month in the Journal of Applied Spatial Analysis and Policy:

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