Book Review: The Routledge Handbook of Census Resources, Methods and Applications: Unlocking the UK 2011 Census, J. Stillwell (Ed.). Published by Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, London and New York, 2018. Pages: xxv + 473. Price:£140.00 (Hardback). Print ISBN: 9781472475886. eBook ISBN: 9781315564777
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The UK census of the population and dwellings is a complex undertaking in which the ‘event’ of residents answering a form about individual - or household - specific circumstances on Census night (27 March 2011) represents the culmination of nearly a decade’s planning. Results from the Census are used extensively at all levels of government, by researchers, in private organisations and among NGOs.
In order to realise the potential that socio-demographic data obtained from the Census offers, users should be aware of its provenance, its limitations, and how others have used the data in different settings. Through the publication of The Routledge Handbook of Census Resources, Methods and Applications, John Stillwell has brought together leading population geographers and demographers and created a volume that provides a comprehensive guide to all aspects of the census.
In the age of Big Data, fake news, linkage of administrative data for analyses and social media, it seemed very appropriate that the “who’s who” of population geography and demography in the UK have united to advocate for the Census. The close collaboration between the Offices of National Statistics from the home countries of the UK and the academic community is a model that should be encouraged in other countries.
One of the impressive aspects of this book is the way in which the Census has embraced technological advances in order to maximise its user-base. These advances range from the use of APIs to enable 3rd party organisations to rapidly use census results, to using visualisation approaches more commonly associated with non-geographic environments. The authors of more technical chapters have done an excellent job at balancing the amount of technical jargon for the experts and prose that is more accessible to readers relatively new to using the Census.
The £140 price tag for the hardcover version is reasonably expensive, however I would encourage census users and libraries around the world to see this as an investment, not as an expense. There is a plethora of intricacies related to the collection and dissemination of the 2011 census which are covered in this Handbook, and there is no doubt that this will become a vital resource for census data users from a wide range of backgrounds, both within the UK and abroad.
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Conflict of Interest
The author has no conflicts of interest to declare.