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The term census usually refers to the complete process of preparation, collection, compilation, evaluation, analysis, and dissemination of data on demographic, social, economic, and housing characteristics. In most countries, population censuses provide the only complete set of statistical information for all residents. Such information is fundamental for any GIS developed for socioeconomic and, often, environmental analysis purposes.

While surveys collect more detailed information on topics of special interest, they tend to be based on fairly small samples that yield representative information only for large groups of the population. Censuses, on the other hand, collect a small set of essential indicators that are a critical component of the national statistical system. Statistical offices also conduct censuses of agriculture or of the economy (e.g., industrial establishments). In some ...

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