This article was written by senior consultant Joanna Farmer.
For the last few weeks, the Census has been in the news. Despite, or perhaps because of, the setbacks on that Tuesday night in early August, debate has been ongoing about the need for a Census in the information age.
For economic and social researchers and evaluators, this is an important debate to have given the importance of accurate data for policy making.
A common argument against the Census is the notion that we hand over so much data to public and private entities in our day-to-day lives that there is no need for us to ‘take a pause’ and provide seemingly basic information on Census night. While it’s true that there is now a great deal of ‘big data’ stored across the country, the extent to which it is accessible by researchers varies.
Importantly, very little of this stored data is accessible in a form that allows it to be linked to other factors that provide important context. The ATO may have information about people’s incomes, but the Census can add an extra dimension by understanding the relationship that has with family structures and cultural backgrounds, providing more nuanced policy responses that account for people’s context and location.