Marsh C, Skinner C, Arber S, Penhale B, Openshaw S, Hobcraft J, Lievesley D, Walford N. The case for samples of anonymised records from the 1991 Census. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society (Series A) 1991; 154 (2): 305-340
The census of population represents a rich source of social data. Other countries have released samples of anonymized records from their censuses to the research community for secondary analysis. So far this has not been done in Britain. The areas of research which might be expected to benefit from such microdata are outlined, and support is drawn from considering experience overseas. However, it is essential to protect the confidentiality of the data. The paper therefore considers the risks, both real and perceived, of identification of individuals from census microdata. The conclusion of the paper is that the potential benefits from census microdata are large and that the risks in terms of disclosure are very small. The authors therefore argue that the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys and the General Register Office of Scotland should release samples of anonymized records from the 1991 census for secondary analysis.