Technical paper on data and methods for the production of population estimates

Data and methods for the production of national population estimates: An overview and analysis of available metadata

In its technical paper series, the Population Division publishes substantive and methodological research on population issues carried out by experts both within and outside the United Nations system. The series promotes scientific understanding of population issues among Governments, national and international organizations, research institutions and individuals engaged in social and economic planning, research and training.

Population estimates can be produced using a variety of data sources and methods. This paper offers a concise review of the methods that are commonly used by national statistical offices to produce annual time series of population estimates by age and sex. These methods depend on two critical components: an initial population count and a method of time adjustment. Both components play a crucial role in determining the overall quality of population estimates. The paper formulates specific recommendations concerning best practices for the production of national population estimates. Drawing on information from various sources used by the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) to produce its biennial edition of global population estimates, the World Population Prospects, the paper also provides an overview of data availability and current practices in the production of official population estimates around the world.