Pew Research: Lessons from the German Census

D’Vera Cohn of the Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends Project writes about the 2011 German census, how the results exposed pitfalls in German administrative record-keeping, and how that weakness is relevant for U.S. Census efforts.

When the results of the 2011 German census were announced recently, they included an embarrassing error – at least in the demographics world. It showed the German population was 1.5 million people short of what the government had expected. The news dealt a blow to Germany’s reputation for efficient record-keeping, and it’s also relevant to how the next U.S. Census is conducted….

The major reason for the shortfall in Germany’s population count was that local registers were not updated when foreign-born residents left the country. The German statistical office had estimated that there were 7.3 million residents of Germany without German passports, but the census counted just 6.2 million.

Read more: Lessons from the German Census

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