A recent Economist article (July 17th, 2010 edition) discussed the very real possibility that next year’s census in Britain could be the nation’s last. Instead, information would be gathered from other government databases combined with periodic polling. The large data sets combined with the immense computing power needed to make sense of it is one factor leading to the possible change. Quickly changing societies is another. Britain would not be the first either, with many other European countries having already adopted similar methods.
Those who oppose censuses cite the cost and government power and misuse of the data. Those for it fear the loss of the continuous and consistent data set. And there are always data concerns as to how accurate some counts are in quickly changing societies, especially when Jedi Knights are becoming a major religion (which is a phenomenon in itself).
Since the Census in America is required by the Constitution we probably won’t be seeing such a dramatic change here in the immediate future, but the changing nature of censuses in other countries is an important trend to keep an eye on for those that rely on the data.