Census 2011 crystal ball gazing – so how did I do?
Well the Census results are out, so it’s finally time to check my 11 predictions made before the release of the results and see how well I did. Did I pick the trend right? How close did I get to the actual numbers? And what does it all mean?
1. EARLIER RELEASE DATE – I predict that the ABS will release the first data from the 2011 Census on Wednesday June 20th, 2012. Last Census it was the 27th of June 2007 and they always like to improve their processing time, even slightly, every Census!
Despite the fact that I was kind of one day out, I am claiming this one on a technicality. Australian Demographic Statistics (3101.0) came out on Wednesday, June 20th and indeed it did contain the first counts of Census population by state, and estimates of the undercount, on page 19 of that publication. The bulk of the data came out the next day, but I successfully predicted the first results date.
2. MORE AUSSIES OVERSEAS – I predict that Australia’s total Census count will be 21,605,452- might as well pick a number that looks exact. This will lead to a total Estimated Resident Population (ERP) of 22,500,000 or so, but I’m predicting a greater difference than previous Censuses, due mainly to more people being overseas on the night.
RESULT: PARTIAL HIT!
I was never going to get the exact number right, but I didn’t do too badly. The official Census count INCLUDING overseas visitors was 21,727,158, while excluding Overseas visitors, it was 21,507,018 – so my guess was right in the middle of the two of them. A little high (thought I didn’t state it I meant it as a Usual Resident count), but this was better than the ABS population estimate for 2011 which had been overestimated by 294,000. So if I can do better than the ABS I think I can claim a partial hit.
3. FASTEST GROWING STATE – Western Australia will have the largest percentage growth from 2006-2011 Census, but Victoria will have the largest numerical growth in the Census count, pipping NSW at the post.
RESULT: PARTIAL HIT!
Western Australia was by far the fastest growing state, with 14.3% growth (and some spectacular growth in the mining regions). Victoria far outstripped NSW in numerical terms, up by 421,621 people in 5 years, compared to NSW 368,484. However the largest growth in the Census count was found in Queensland (just) which I didn’t pick. Queensland’s resident count grew by 428,208, just a shade more than Victoria’s.
Interestingly the official population estimates derived from Census, which are not the same as Census counts but include factors for undercount and overseas population actually give the largest growth to Victoria. See Wednesday’s blog for details.
4. BOOMING BABIES – The number of people aged 0-4, which declined from 1991 to 2001, and then increased by 16,000 from 2001-2006 will increase by a much larger amount, around 100,000 from 2006-2011. This is due to the significantly increased birth rate since 2006, and is supported by .idforecast numbers for 2011.
Again, this prediction is based on solid evidence of the birth rate and preliminary ERP. If anything it’s a bit conservative. The ERP and .id’s forecasts show that the likely increase is more in the vicinity of 200,000 (around 15%).
This was a pretty easy one. The number of 0-4 year olds increased by 160,646 between 2006 and 2011, well over my initial thoughts of 100,000 though not quite up to the revised estimate of 200,000. Nevertheless there was a very big increase in this group, which was up by 12.7% over 5 years, one of the fastest growing 5 year age groups.
5. CHANGING MIGRANT INTAKE – Burma, Iran, Nepal and Zimbabwe will be the birthplace countries with the largest percentage increase in Australia’s population, with large humanitarian intakes. In raw number terms, India will show the largest increase, followed by China, mostly skilled and family reunion migration.
Burma (+75.8%), Iran (+52.8%), Nepal (+440% – that’s not a typo, it’s increased by four hundred percent), Zimbabwe (+50.1%) were all among the top increasers. Others with smaller population bases but massive percentage increases included Bhutan (+1666%), Congo (+316%), Burundi (+129%) and Sierra Leone (+68%). One big increase that I did miss though was Saudi Arabia – significant in both number and percentage up from 3,482 to 10,515 (202%).
In numerical terms, India grew the most, by 148,256 people (101%), followed by China (112,381) and New Zealand (93,932). The UK-born population grew by 62,537, well under these, so my revision to the original prediction actually made it worse. The UK population grew by a lot less than the settlement statistics indicate, probably due to the deaths of many of the older migrants from the UK, who have quite a high average age. At the same time, those coming from India are young, and include many students, who aren’t in the permanent settler stats at all (nor are New Zealanders, due to free migration).
6. MORE KIDS AT HOME – More children will be staying at home longer (sorry!) I predict that 40% of those aged 20-29 will be still living at home with one or more parents (32% in 2006), while for 25-29 year olds it will increase from 18% to 25% still living with parents.
This one threw me entirely. While I knew that 40% was probably an unrealistically large increase to predict for one Census, I certainly expected the figure to increase. The fact is that the proportion of 20-29 year olds still living with their parents actually DECREASED from 31.7% in 2006 to 31.0% in 2011, and for 25-29s it DECREASED from 17.7% to 17.1%. Not huge decreases to be sure, but all the feedback I have had from our clients indicated that there would be an increase, due to high house prices and rents making moving out unaffordable.
So I am very surprised by this result. The overall number of 20-29 year olds living as children in families went up by around 80,000 people, but this represented an increase of only 10.2% against a total increase in 20-29 year olds of 12.2%.
My only thought is that since the large increase in total 20-29 population was due to overseas migration (and most migrants in that age group are independent enough to start a new life in another country), maybe the proportion of Australian-born 20-29 year olds still living at home is still going up. But this investigation will have to wait for another day.
It’s certainly a good example of how evidence can dispel some myths generated by anecdote.
7. CHANGING HOME OWNERSHIP – Due to housing affordability pressures, there will be an INCREASE in full home ownership (those who bought some time ago and have paid off their mortgage, from 32.6% to about 35%) and an INCREASE in renters (from 27.2% to about 30% ). There will be a corresponding DECREASE in those households with a mortgage, from 32.2% to about 29%.
Though I was right about the increase in renters (up from 27.2% to 28.7%), I was very wrong about the other two, so I won’t even claim a partial hit as I got the trend wrong. Exactly the opposite trend shows up. Outright ownership declined from 32.6% in 2006 to 31.0% in 2011, while mortgages increased from 32.2% to 33.3%. Some of the increase in mortgage and renters was due to better data quality – “Not stated” went from 7.1% down to 6.1% – but by any account the changes are not major, and among home ownership the trend opposite to what I predicted. People are still taking on mortgages in greater numbers and there is little evidence that people are being priced out of the housing market.
8. LESS HOUSING AFFORDABILITY – This housing affordability issue will impact significantly on those in their 30s, where there will be an increase in the proportion of renters from 30.8% in 2006 to about 38% in 2011.
RESULT: PARTIAL HIT!
The final number was not quite the 38% I predicted, however I think 34.5% of 30-39 year olds in rented accommodation is enough for me to claim a hit on this one. That’s quite a big increase in one Census, and is accompanied by a decrease in full home ownership (12.0% down to 10.4%) and mortgages (49.2% down to 48.2%). The increase in rental is certainly the biggest change, and indicates that not only is the number of renters increasing but more people are renting later in life, probably due to the escalating cost of home ownership.
9. MORE SAME SEX COUPLES – Due to a change in the definition and increased publicity, the number of same sex couples will increase from just under 25,000 in 2006 to over 50,000 in 2011, but still represent only about 1% of all couples.
The change in the definition is minimal – the ABS will now be coding as same-sex defacto relationships those same-sex couples who indicate that they are “Married in a registered marriage”, even though that is not legal in Australia. A larger increase is likely to be due simply to the publicity at Census time for same-sex couples to record their relationship on the form.
The ABS have released this result in their data quality fact sheets on release day, for the first time. The final number is 33,714, about 30% up on 2006, but nowhere near doubling. I was surprised to get this one wrong. There was a lot more publicity about the Census recording same-sex couples and I thought this would result in a larger number. With the better data quality particularly in inner city areas this time, it may well be that this is now a pretty accurate count of the actual number of same-sex couples in Australia. This means that same-sex couples represent 0.7% of all couples in Australia (including de-factos plus those 1,338 same-sex couples who marked the “registered marriage” box), and 2.2% of all de-facto couples.
10. BIGGER HOUSEHOLDS – With more children staying at home for longer, a higher birthrate and declining housing affordability, we will see an increase in the average household size from 2.56 people per household in 2006 to 2.65 people per household in 2011, the first increase in 6 Censuses.
This is the big prediction which underlies several of the others here (4, 6, 7 and eight) – the preliminary ERP estimates when compared to building approvals seem to indicate a rise in household size, which will go against the trend of recent decades.
The apparent increase in household size in the inter-censal years appears to have been due to an overestimate of the undercount in 2006! The ABS revised population numbers down, and while growth has still been significantly higher than the increase in dwellings would suggest, it was not enough to increase the average household size. Average household size remained flat at 2.55 persons per dwelling between the two Censuses. This is still significant as it means that the falls in household size seen since the 1970s have bottomed out, but despite many more children and an increase in group households we haven’t seen the upswing which I predicted. It is likely that there will be substantial changes in smaller areas though, and we’ll be talking about this further in the blog and when training our clients on the new profile.id sites.
11. INCREASE IN “NO RELIGION” AND “CHRISTIAN NFD” – My final prediction is a new one concerning everyone’s favourite Census question – Religion. Around Census time there was a big push for people to answer “No Religion” on the Census form if they were not currently religious. The trend of “No Religion has been upwards for many Censuses, and rise of the atheist movement has been quite considerable over the last 5 years. So it’s not much of a stretch to say that there will be another significant increase. I predict it will rise from 3.7 million (18.7%) in 2006 to around 4.6 million (21.2%) in 2011.
The other category I’m predicting an increase in is “Christian Not Further Described”. There was a somewhat misguided email going around at Census time asking people to “tick the Christian box”, despite the fact that there is no “Christian” box on the Census form. Based on this, and an increasing number of people not identifying with a particular Christian denomination, the Christian NFD category will be increasing further (that’s where people ignore the boxes for denominations and write in “Christian”). The existing trend is clear. While there were declines in Anglicans, Uniting Church etc. “Christian NFD” went from 186,000 people in 1996 to 313,000 people in 2006. I’m predicting 400,000 for 2011.
Religion is always the most controversial Census question and I will be writing a full blog on it. There has been a lot of reporting of the headline result here, which was an increase in No Religion from 18.7% to 22.3% (4.8 million) – this was an increase even larger than what I expected but I am claiming it as a hit because I got the strong trend correct.
The other result no-one else has yet picked up on, as far as I know. “Christian nfd” went from 313,000 in 2006 to 471,000 in 2011, up by 50.4%, making it one of the fastest growing “religions” (going back to 1996, that’s a 152% increase in 15 years). Presumably this is people who don’t identify with an organised church, but with Christianity in general (plus maybe a few who got scared by the silly email). While the established Christian religions like Anglican and Presbyterian decline, this group increases.
So, in the end, I got 4 hits and 3 partial hits out of 11 predictions. For the 9 predictions where I was forecasting a trend, in 7 cases I got the trend right, but in the other 2 it was completely the opposite! This prediction business is fun to do but quite difficult to get right, and it again shows how important that 5-yearly update from the Census is to our demographic knowledge and ensuring that we are making decisions based on evidence rather than anecdotes or assumptions.
One of the things it’s revealed to me is that demographic change doesn’t happen as quickly as you think it’s going to – that’s a topic for another blog I think. I can also see that I’m better at predicting strict demographic trends (eg. age and population) than social trends (eg same sex marriage, kids living at home), which is a good thing because that’s what we do here at .id.
Please leave a comment on the blog if you’ve got any questions about any of the predictions, or maybe you had your own prediction that proved accurate or didn’t eventuate?
I’ll be elaborating on the interesting results that are highlighted in these predictions in future blogs. Stay tuned!