Friday, January 16, 2012
RE: Letter from CCSD to Statistics Canada concerning the 2016 Census Program
The Canadian Council on Social Development (CCSD) would like to provide feedback that reflects the needs and interests of hundreds of members working in Canadian municipalities and community-based organisations as part of our Community Data Program (CDP). This feedback comes in light of Statistics Canada's ongoing consultation process for the 2016 Census Program.
Broadly speaking, we wholeheartedly agree that Statistics Canada should prioritise data at small geographic areas:
A higher priority will be assigned to uses that require data for small geographic areas or small groups of interest. Needs for data by dissemination area or census tract will be higher priority than those at the census metropolitan area (CMA) level, which in turn will be higher than those at the provincial/territorial level. Likewise, needs for smaller populations of interest such as recent immigrants, will be higher priority than those for larger groups such as the employed population.
2016 Census Program Content Consultation Guide, p. 7
Indeed, our overarching recommendation to Statistics Canada is to maintain and expand survey sample size with a focus on the creation of tables corresponding to small geographies (Census subdivision and smaller). Implicit in this is the importance of mandatory surveys over voluntary ones, as these are better suited to comparing findings across both time and small area geographies.
By investing in the underlying infrastructure, Statistics Canada would create opportunities for private sector for-profit and not-for-profit investment in the tools, analyses and products that build on this infrastructure.
In other words, the organisations with which we work are willing to sacrifice better quality visualisation and analytical tools provided by Statistics Canada, if it means that Statistics Canada could instead improve the quality of existing tables, and enable access to those not currently available to them.
In addition to broad recommendations, our in-house analytics for the Community Data Program paint some interesting pictures. Our 2011 survey of 238 CDP users provides insight on both (1) the types of policy issues for which our data are typically used, and (2) the usefulness of data tables derived from the 2006 Census of Population.
First however it is important to note that, by definition, Community Data Program users deal primarily with social development issues. Their participation in nine non-mutually exclusive sectors included in the survey is shown in Figure 1. (Note that respondents were able to select multiple categories, and so the numbers do not add up to 100.)
Respondents were asked, "What are the most important policy issues for which CDP data are currently used in your organisation?" The most pressing data-intensive policy issues overwhelmingly deal with issues of poverty (61%), children and families (57%), aging (54%), immigration and migration (54%), affordable housing (53%), and employment (50%). Diversity and inclusion (44%), homelessness (40%), public health (37%), and regional planning (36%) round out the top ten policy domains for which CDP data are used. Given that the Community Data Program and its members focus primarily on small area geography, the categories high on the list in Figure 2 are a good indication of high priority community-level data.
In addition to data use by policy domain, Statistics Canada is interested in knowing which Census topics were most useful to users. With a similar objective, our 2011 internal survey asked, "Which of the following data tables derived from the census of population do you find useful?" Here, the two most important takeaway points were:
More than six out of ten respondents found every Census table useful, with the exception of Industry. And this latter is not formally a Census Topic. The findings indicate a strong affinity for reliable, consistent, and broad information gathered from the Census.
Despite this, the three most important tables were age (88%), income (83%), and immigration (79%). Respectively, these fit within the following Census topics: basic demographics; income and earnings; and place of birth, citizenship and immigration.
To recapitulate, we would like to emphasize two critical pieces of feedback regarding the 2016 Census Program. First, we recommend that Statistics Canada focus its resources on maintaining and improving the quality of data at small geographical areas. This requires not only a sufficiently large sample size, but more importantly a mandatory survey. Secondly, from the perspective of municipalities and community organisations involved in social development with whom we work, the Census topics that are of most concern at small geographical areas include (1) basic demographics, (2) income and earnings, and (3) place of birth, citizenship, and immigration. Nonetheless, at least six out of ten respondents found value in all topics that were included in the 2006 Census of Population.
We would like to thank Statistics Canada for taking the time to solicit feedback for the 2016 Census Program. We trust that the information we provide will be of use to your team.
Peggy Taillon, President
Canadian Council on Social Development