Can Estimating Completeness of Death Registration be used as Evidence of Inaccuracy of Population Size Estimates from a Census? The Case of the 2011 South African Population Census

Eric O Udjo


Background: Knowledge about the size of the population is important for planning in any population. The census is the traditional source of information about population size.  Accuracy of census figures can be in doubt even when a post-enumeration survey is used to adjust census figures.  Results from the three post-apartheid censuses in South Africa are controversial.  South Africa has a long history of death registration. Given the controversies surrounding South Africa’s censuses, this study examines whether estimating completeness of death registration can be a tool for assessing the accuracy of the 2011 official census population estimate.  Implication of inaccuracy of census figures on life expectancy at birth estimates is also examined. 

Data Sources and Methods: The data for the study are South Africa’s 2001 and 2011 Censuses, 2001 and 2011 Deaths registration. Estimation of completeness of death registration was based on the Growth Balance method. 

Findings and Conclusion: The results indicate that using the official figures, the trend in completeness of death registration is illogical largely due to over-estimation of the population size in 2011.  This in turn produces over-estimation of life expectancy at birth in South Africa.  It is important to get population figures as accurate as possible to avoid inefficient allocation of scarce resources


Death registration completeness, life expectancy at birth, population size, post enumeration survey, South Africa

Full Text:




  • There are currently no refbacks.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

ISSN 2308-7854 (online); ISSN 0850-5780 (print)

Powered by OJS and hosted by Stellenbosch University Library and Information Service since 2013.


This journal is hosted by the SU LIS on request of the journal owner/editor. The SU LIS takes no responsibility for the content published within this journal, and disclaim all liability arising out of the use of or inability to use the information contained herein. We assume no responsibility, and shall not be liable for any breaches of agreement with other publishers/hosts.

SUNJournals Help