Population estimates: Unexplained growth in number of ‘unclassified’ Canadians

As of 2010, the last year for which all of the population estimate data is ‘final’, there were 141 thousand Canadians unaccounted for in the population estimate. The data suggests it’s not an error.

Help us figure out who the missing 141 thousand Canadians are and win a prize (mentioned at the end of this post).

There are a few clues as to who these ‘unclassified’ Canadians are:

– the population estimates are updated with every Census;

– when a new population component is introduced in a given Census year, that component is added to the population estimates table;

– in 1991, to account for the increasing number of temporary foreign workers passing through the revolving door, the Census began to specifically identify ‘temporary emigration’;

– the population estimates immediately began to identify Canadians’ temporary emigration in 1991;

– although interprovincial migration had been recorded since the beginning (1971) of the referenced population estimate series, a peculiar series of 0’s appear in the national data table starting in 2000;

– in 2001, the long-form Census began to specifically identify interprovincial migration over the past year and past five years;

– the divergence in the series begins between 2000 and 2001 – before this period, the net change in the components of population growth (plus a residual) added up to the exact change in the population estimate over the course of the preceding year;

– at the federal level, the divergence between the subcomponents and total population estimates really began to take off between 2005 and 2006 (another Census year), jumping from 6 thousand to 40 thousand;

– the divergence between the subcomponents and total population estimates exploded from there, reaching 141 thousand in 2011 (another Census year);

– between 2005 and 2010 (Census reference years), the difference between the sum of
population subcomponents and the estimated total population increased 136 thousand, 7-8% of total estimated population growth over the same period;

– looking at the provincial/territorial data summary table, the sum of divergence in net outflows from Quebec and Alberta and inflows to Ontario and BC in 2011, 138 thousand, very closely mirrors the divergence between the Canadian population subcomponents and the total population estimates (which shouldn’t have an impact on the national population estimate); and

– a couple of other things happened between 2006 and 2011: the number of workers on ‘unclassified’ business payrolls as well as the number of temporary foreign worker admissions each increased by well over 100 thousand (the latter should have been classified ‘non-permanent residents’ component).

And that’s all we know (for now). We’d ask StatsCan, but don’t particularly care for the weeks/months wait and eventual non-response response. To have a bit of fun with it, we’ll make it a contest: Find the 141 thousand Canadians missing from the data and win a ‘I found 141 thousand missing Canadians and all I got was this lousy t-shirt’ t-shirt.


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