The register-based census in Germany: historical context and relevance for population research

Scholz, R. D., Kreyenfeld, M. R.

Comparative Population Studies, 41:2, 175-204 (2016)


Schlagworte: Germany, census data, demographic indicators, population registers


In 2011, Germany carried out its first census after a 20-year break. In light of the United Nations’ recommendations that countries initiate a population census at least every 10 years, the census was long overdue. Moreover, demographers had for some time been demanding a new enumeration that would enable them to place the calculation of demographic indicators on a reliable basis. With the 2011 census, Germany not only met the demand for a current population census, but also broke new ground by using a register-based approach. Unlike the Scandinavian countries, which have a long tradition of performing register-based data analyses, the linking of administrative data in Germany is restricted by the country’s legal framework. Thus, the 2011 census was an ambitious project. After contextualising the 2011 census historically, we discuss in this contribution the census’ relevance for generating central demographic data. Specifically, we compare the updated population estimates of the 1987 census to the results of the 2011 census in order to identify possible systematic sources of error that distort demographic indicators and analyses.