City Research Online

Using Administrative Data to Count Local Populations

Harper, G. & Mayhew, L. (2012). Using Administrative Data to Count Local Populations. Applied Spatial Analysis and Policy, 5(2), pp. 97-122. doi: 10.1007/s12061-011-9063-y


There is growing evidence that official population statistics based on the decennial census are inaccurate at the local authority level—the fundamental administrative unit of the UK. This paper investigates the use of locally available administrative data sets for counting populations. The method uses truth tables for combining different data sources with different population coverage according to a defined and therefore replicable set of rules. The result is timelier and geographically more flexible data which is more cost-effective to produce than a survey-based census. Associated techniques for linking diverse data sources at individual and household level are briefly discussed. The methodology is then applied to administrative data from a London borough with about 170,000 people. The results are evaluated and compared with other population sources. The paper concludes by discussing potential improvements including scaling up the work to cover multiple local authorities. The practicalities of using alternative central government data sets are briefly considered. A sequel paper in this journal provides examples of key applications of this approach at local level.

Publication Type: Article
Publisher Keywords: Local population counts, Census limitations, Use of administrative data, Data linkage, Truth tables, Case study
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation
H Social Sciences > HA Statistics
Departments: Bayes Business School > Actuarial Science & Insurance
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Midwifery & Radiography
Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons: Attribution International Public License 4.0.

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