Difference Between Census and Sampling

Census and sampling are two methods of collecting survey data about the population that are used by many countries. Census refers to the quantitative research method, in which all the members of the population are enumerated. On the other hand, the sampling is the widely used method, in statistical testing, wherein a data set is selected from the large population, which represents the entire group.

Census implies complete enumeration of the study objects, whereas Sampling connotes enumeration of the subgroup of elements chosen for participation. These two survey methods are often contrasted with each other, and so this article makes an attempt to clear the differences between census and sampling, in detail; Have a look.

Content: Census Vs Sampling

  1. Comparison Chart
  2. Definition
  3. Key Differences
  4. Conclusion

Comparison Chart

Basis for Comparison Census Sampling
Meaning A systematic method that collects and records the data about the members of the population is called Census. Sampling refers to a portion of the population selected to represent the entire group, in all its characteristics.
Enumeration Complete Partial
Study of Each and every unit of the population. Only a handful of units of the population.
Time required It is a time consuming process. It is a fast process.
Cost Expensive method Economical method
Results Reliable and accurate Less reliable and accurate, due to the margin of error in the data collected.
Error Not present. Depends on the size of the population
Appropriate for Population of heterogeneous nature. Population of homogeneous nature.

Definition of Census

A well-organised procedure of gathering, recording and analysing information regarding the members of the population is called a census. It is an official and complete count of the universe, wherein each and every unit of the universe is included in the collection of data. Here universe implies any region (city or country), a group of people, through which the data can be acquired.

Under this technique, the enumeration is conducted about the population by considering the entire population. Hence this method requires huge finance, time and labour for gathering information. This method is useful, to find out the ratio of male to female, the ratio of literate to illiterate people, the ratio of people living in urban areas to the people in rural areas.

Definition of Sampling

We define sampling as the process in which the fraction of the population, so selected to represent the characteristics of the larger group. This method is used for statistical testing, where it is not possible to consider all members or observations, as the population size is very large.

As statistical inferences are based on the sampling observations, the selection of the appropriate representative sample is of utmost importance. So, the sample selected should indicate the entire universe and not exhibit a particular section. On the basis of the data collected from the representative samples, the conclusion is drawn from the whole population. For instance: A company places an order for raw material by simply checking out the sample.

The units which constitute sample is considered as ‘Sampling Units’. The full-fledged list containing all sampling units is called ‘Sampling Frame’.

Key Differences Between Census and Sampling

The paramount differences between census and sampling are discussed in detail in the given below points:

  1. The census is a systematic method that collects and records the data about the members of the population. The sampling is defined as the subset of the population selected to represent the entire group, in all its characteristics.
  2. The census is alternately known as a complete enumeration survey method. In contrast, sampling is also known as a partial enumeration survey method.
  3. In the census, each and every unit of population is researched. On the contrary, only a handful of items is selected from the population for research.
  4. Census, is a very time-consuming method of survey, whereas, in the case of sampling, the survey does not take much time.
  5. The census method requires high capital investment as it involves the research and collection of all the values of the population. Unlike sampling which is a comparatively economical method.
  6. The results drawn by conducting a census is accurate and reliable while there are chances of errors in the results drawn from the sample.
  7. The size of the sample determines the probability of errors in the outcome, i.e. the larger the size of population the less are the chances of errors and the smaller the size; the higher are the chances of errors. This is not possible with census as all the items are taken into consideration.
  8. Census is best suited for the population of heterogeneous nature. As opposed to sampling which is appropriate for homogeneous nature.


Many people interpret census as the opposite of sampling, in which all the members of the population are taken into account instead of only a fraction. But the census is based on the sampling frame to enumerate population. Therefore, it is quite clear that these two quantitative research methodologies are different, but it can’t be said that one is above the other.

Related Differences

  • Difference Between Money Bill and Finance Bill
  • Difference Between CV and Cover Letter
  • Difference Between Direct Democracy and Indirect Democracy
  • Difference Between Estuary and Delta
  • Difference Between Footnote and Endnote