Valuing the Australian Census

Census Economic indicators Australia

In May 2019, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) commissioned Lateral Economics to estimate the value of the benefits Australia gained through the use and application of data from the Census of Population and Housing (the Census). The ABS was assiduous in insisting that the work be independent and, while it was extremely helpful to us in our research, made no attempt to influence our judgements.

This report discusses the benefits of the Census in three categories:

  1. Major uses of economic value;
  2. Minor uses of economic value (what we have called ‘the long tail’); and
  3. Predominantly non-economic uses.

As with similar studies elsewhere, most of our effort has involved providing an indicative valuation of the first category of benefit. An economic value has been imputed to the second category more summarily.

The value of the third category cannot responsibly be quantified, but is of major significance. The Census provides politically independent informational infrastructure that helps safeguard the integrity of our federal system of government and thus the capacity of Australia‘s democracy to represent its people fairly.

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