Census and Sample Survey

Census and sample survey essentially relates to the statistical collection of data across various areas and sectors pertaining to the particular subject-matter or enquiry. These data collection exercises are undertaken on a cross-section of a targeted population.

The information that is derived from the study of a population can be subsequently used for various purposes. 

Let us discuss the census and sampling. 

Census Method 

The process used in the census method includes the statistical compilation of all units or members of the target population under the survey. In this case, population relates to the entire set of observations connected to a particular study.

For instance, if students of a university have to give feedback on teaching faculty, the former will be held as the population of that study.

Sample Method 

Sample method chooses the different sample entities from the targeted population. This method involves a statistical analysis of an already determined number of observations that is derived from a larger set of population. 

Sample methodology can be used of different kinds; these can be – simple random sampling or systematic sampling, cluster sampling or stratified sampling, etc. among others.

Advantages of Census Method 

Advantages of census method are –

  • Intensive Nature of Study 

In-depth information related to an issue is covered, which helps in all-inclusive understanding.

For instance, in population census, apart from counting a number of people, other parameters are also considered, like age, sex, marital status etc. 

  • Accuracy and Reliability of Results 

Results are more reliable and accurate owing to the vast number of items that are taken into account. 

Limitations of Census Method 

Limitations of census method includes –

  • High Expenditure 

The expenditure incurred during census is much higher because of sheer size of the population. Also, data is collected from each unit of a sample population, which requires additional costing. 

  • Huge Resources Required 

Owing to the huge volume of data that is collated, a greater number of workforce (as well as man hours) is required for completion. 

Advantages of Sample Method

The advantages of sample method are –

  • Faster Results 

In the sample method, the number of units utilised is significantly less. It helps to arrive at results much quicker.

  • Economical 

Sample method incurs substantially lower cost than census method as these tests are done over a limited sample.

  • Greater Ambit of Scope 

It has greater scope than census method as it acts as a substitute in such cases where the latter becomes impracticable. For instance, if a manufacturer wants to test its range of toasters and other kitchen appliances, it will apply a sample method and not a census method. 

  • Cross-checking Census Results and Follow up Measures

The nature of the sample method is such that it can be employed to check the results from the census method. 

Also, due to the small size of its sample, the method is useful for cross-checking the reliability of its own results. A small sample can be taken out of generated results, and that sample will have to be investigated. 

Limitations of a Sample Method

Limitations of sample method are –

  • Inefficiencies in Sample Selection 

In choosing samples, there is a higher likelihood of biased selection. The investigator may choose such a sample that is favourable to him or her. Due to this, entire collected sample sets will not be an accurate representation of the entire population. 

  • Difficulty in Selecting a Sample with all Characteristics

It is likely that samples may not retain all the characteristics of a population. The problem arises from the limited size of any sample.

In a small sample base, only a handful of characteristics will be exhibited. 

  • Requires Expert knowledge and Training 

The executors of sample method require training and specialised knowledge for conducting the survey. In the absence of knowledge of those special techniques, the exercise cannot be carried out. 

Difference Between Census and Sample





Census method is effective for a heterogeneous population

Sample method is effective if the study is on limited units in a population


It requires much more resources, time and costs 

It is comparatively economical in nature requiring lesser resources

Enquiry nature 

The nature of enquiry is extensive in its ambit 

Nature if an enquiry is limited in its ambit

Organising and monitoring 

Due to the vastness of the sample population, organising and monitoring is difficult 

Due to the limited size of the population sample, monitoring and organising is relatively easy


The results borne out of verification cannot be verified 

The results can be further tested by investigating another small sample from the generated result

Accuracy and reliability 

Given the extensive method, the results are closer to accuracy and have greater reliability

Due to the limited method of sampling, it falls short of attaining a high degree of accuracy.

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FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Why use a Sample Instead of a Census?

Ans. Sample may be used instead of a census on account of a number of reasons. Census incurs a huge amount of cost, whereas sample is far more economical. Census is a time-bound process, but due to the nature of a survey in a sample, results can be derived in a quick manner.

2. What are the Benefits of a Census?

Ans. Census has a wide range of benefits that include the nature of a study to be far more intensive, where it procures in-depth information on various parameters. The method by which each study is conducted ensures that the results have higher reliability and accuracy. 

3. What are the Benefits of a Sample Method? 

Benefits of the sample method include its expansive scope due to which it is able to cover more aspects. It also helps in instances where carrying out a census becomes impracticable. Cross-checking the data in the case of a sample method is easier given the smaller sample size. The extent of reliability of results can also be determined.