Why Governments Count People

Why Governments Count People. YaleGlobal. Joseph Chamie. March 19, 2019

Governments have organized censuses since ancient times, and as the world’s population approaches 8 billion, governments have more people to count and analyze than ever before. Censuses help determine efficient allocation of government funds and political representation. A low median age suggests the government should devote more funding to education and an older median age suggests more resources should go toward elder services. Methods and access to the data remain controversial, explains demographer Joseph Chamie. Censuses expose flaws, whether income disparity, gender imbalances or even the influences of climate change and lack of sustainability. Political parties in power can manipulate perceptions and results with insertion or deletion of a single question. “Inaccuracies or outright lies defeat the purpose of the census and disrupt effective governing and meaningful planning,” he writes. “So every question should have a legitimate public purpose to promote well-being and reduce problems.” Chamie outlines how concerns about confidentiality or diversity can erode accuracy even as globalization of communications and travel reinforce citizen demands for smooth government operations and services. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

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