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A census is the process of obtaining information about every member of a population (not necessarily a human population). It can be contrasted with sampling in which information is only obtained from a subset of a population. As such it is a method used for accumulating statistical data.

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Ancient censuses

Rome conducted censuses to determine taxes. The word census derives from the Roman censor, the official in charge of counting Romans and setting tax rates. In the Bible, King David had commanded a numbering of the people, and a Roman census is also mentioned in the Bible.

Any others?

Canadian Census

The Canadian census is run by Statistics Canada. The first census conducted in Canada was conducted in 1666, by French intendant Jean Talon, when he took a census to ascertain the number of people living in New France. In 1871, Canada's first formal census was conducted, which counted the population of Nova Scotia, Ontario, New Brunswick, and Quebec. In 1918, the Dominion Bureau of Statistics[?] was formed. In 1971, Statistics Canada was formed to replace the Dominion Bureau of Statistics[?], and consequently, took over its census job.

Census in Canada are conducted in five year intervals. The latest census was conducted in 2001 and the next planned census is 2006.

US Census

The US census is—as mandated in the Constitution—taken every ten years, and the results are used for apportioning seats in Congress. The first census was taken in 1790. Today, there are two forms of questionnaire—long and short. A computer determines which form is mailed to a given household (in practice, of those households whose locations are on the federal lists), with one in seven receiving the long form. This is supplemented by census workers who go door-to-door to talk to people who don't return the forms. In addition to a simple count of residents, the Census Bureau collects a variety of statistics, on topics ranging from ethnicity to the presence of indoor plumbing. Despite a massive effort, the Census Bureau has never been able to count every individual, leading to controversy about whether to use statistical methods to supplement the numbers for some purposes, as well as arguments over how to improve the actual head count.

UK Census

The UK census as we know it today started in 1801, as part of a drive to ascertain the number of men able to fight in the Napoleonic wars. England took its first Census when the Domesday Book was compiled in 1086. Dalriada (now Scotland) in the 7th century was first territory in what is now the UK to conduct a census, with what was called the "Tradition of the Men of Alba" (Senchus fer n'Alba').

The census has been conducted every ten years since 1801) except in 1941), the last one having been completed in 2001. The census is undertaken by the government, and the information is sold to interested parties, as well as being used for policy and planning purposes.

The census is usually very accurate, and with a fine of £1,000 for those who do not complete it, filled in by a high percentage of the population. An exception may have been the census conducted during the years of the poll tax (1991), when some people avoided it in case it was used for enforcing the tax.

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