Un débat entre statisticiens du xixe siècle : comment obtenir la nécessaire collaboration de la population à l’exercice du recensement ?

In the minds of most official statisticians, obtaining the cooperation of the population in a statistical survey means imposing an obligation to respond. In 2010, the Conservative government in Canada abolished, de facto, the obligation to answer the long-form questionnaire of the 2011 census, causing substantial controversy. This article goes back to the sources of the debate in Western countries. We show that the various aspects of the problem were discussed at length by the Central Statistical Commission of Belgium, from the 1840s, and by the International Statistical Congresses, from their earliest meetings in 1853. It was not until 1860 that an international standard was established and that a kind of statistical wisdom emerged: to oblige when necessary, in accordance with cultural and constitutional norms, without necessarily saying so explicitly, and with as few sanctions as possible.

This content has been updated on 24 April 2023 at 11 h 26 min.