July 2, 2010

Canadian Census Eliminates the Long Form

Statistics Canada has announced that the nation’s 2011 Census will include the same eight basic questions that were asked of everyone in the 2006 count, and that the mandatory long form will be replaced with a voluntary survey.

The census long form went to one-in-five households and had been part of the national census for 35 years. The voluntary National Household Survey will be sent to one-in-three households within a month after the May 2011 census is conducted. Government officials say they hope the larger mail-out will result in an adequate number of responses. The household survey will ask the same questions about citizenship, ethnicity, religion, income, work, housing and other topics that had been on the long form. However, it will not include a request for consent to release individual-level data after 92 years, which had been included on the long form.

The short form includes questions asking for the name, age and gender of each person living in each household, as well as each person’s relationship to “Person 1.” Among the relationship options are “same-sex married spouse” and “same-sex common-law partner.” For each person in the household, there also is this language question: “What is the language that this person first learned at home in childhood and still understands?” (Here is a link to the list of short-form questions.)

According to some news accounts, the long form is being replaced because a growing number of Canadians do not want to answer personal questions, but some statisticians are concerned that a voluntary survey will not achieve the same data quality as a mandatory one. Some genealogists have criticized the decision to stop releasing individual-level data after 92 years, saying that it will impose severe limits on historians and people seeking to do family research.