Australian census analysis

Emeritus Professor Andrew Markus and Ms Tanya Munz

About the project

The Australian census is conducted every five years by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.  The 2016 census was conducted on the evening of 9 August 2016 and covered almost ten million households and 23.4 million people. It provides the most detailed demographic data on religious groups in Australia.

There is, however, a problem with using the census for identification of an ethno-religious group such as the Jewish. The census includes a question asking respondents to indicate the religion of each person in the household, but the question is optional and in 2016 it was not answered by 9% of Victorians. In addition, 32% of Victorians indicated that they have ‘no religion’. It is known that some who regard themselves as culturally Jewish but are not religious include themselves in this category, but their number cannot be established with precision. Some but not all of these persons are identified by a question on ancestry in the census, also by reference to language use in the home.

The challenge for demographers is to estimate the actual Jewish population on the basis of the incomplete enumeration provided by the census. On the basis of extensive statistical analysis, it is estimated that in 2016 Australia’s Jewish population was close to 118,000 and made up 0.5% of the national population. Between 2011 and 2016, Australia’s Jewish population grew by 1%, considerably slower the 6% growth between 2006 and 2011. Victoria’s Jewish population increased by 1.7% between 2011 and 2016 to reach an estimated 54,735 persons, 0.7% of the Victorian population.