Undercounting controversies in South African censuses

Gumbo, Jeremy Dickson
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Census taking dates back to the era of the Roman Empire as can be drawn from the gospel of Luke Chapter 2, Verses 1-5. Under the Roman rule censuses were conducted to keep records for individuals that were eligible for conscription into the army. Later during the colonial era, censuses were conducted to capture individuals that were eligible to pay tax. Currently censuses are widely used in guiding efficient planning and fair resource allocation. Content error, which refers to recording inaccurate information on captured individuals, and coverage error, i.e. either undercounting or over counting of people in a census, presents challenges in achieving these goals. Coverage error is frequent in censuses, especially undercount, which is of interest in this study. In countries that have a well-documented history of census taking like the United States of America, Canada, and China, there are indications that respective censuses recorded substantial numbers of people that were missed. Nigeria and South Africa are some of the countries in Africa where high undercounts have been recorded in censuses. The latter country, which is the focus of this study, recorded undercount estimates of 10.6%, 17%, and 14.6% in the last three censuses of 1996, 2001, and 2011 respectively. These high undercount estimates were the source of controversies that have been associated with the three censuses. The controversies centred on the accuracy of the Post-enumeration Survey (PES). Critiques argue that the PES has been inaccurate in estimating and adjusting the undercount in the respective censuses. For this reason, the accuracy of both the undercount estimates and adjusted counts drawn from this method has also been contested. [Abbreviated abstract. Open document to view full version]
A thesis submitted to the Faculty of Humanities in fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Demography and Population Studies, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa 2016
Gumbo, Jeremy Dickson (2016) Undercounting controversies in South African censuses, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, <http://hdl.handle.net/10539/21837>