Population registers in European countries: a literature review

Maineri, A. M. (Speaker), Luijkx, R. (Speaker), Ilziya Mindarova (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentationScientific


Demographers, statisticians and researchers in general are becoming increasingly interested in the use of national population registers as data sources and sampling frames. In the former case, the advantages of population registers lie in the availability of various information on each record; in the latter case, the strong point of registers is their coverage of the population, which should enable to randomly extract representative samples, reducing biases. These advantages of the population registers had already been largely acknowledged; yet, the advances in digitalization finally made the use of the registers more feasible.
Despite variation in national laws, some supranational principles of data protection - the Fair Information Principles - have been established, at least at the European level. Aims of these guidelines are manifold: on the one side, to safeguard the data subjects; on the other side, to foster the creation of reliable and up-to-date registers. Yet, the situation seems to vary largely between countries.
In this work, we aim at reviewing the availability, accessibility and quality of population registers in the European countries, basing on the existing literature. After defining what population registers are, we provide a picture of the situation of population registers in Europe. We find and discuss some inconsistencies between different papers; in general, it looks like most of the European countries have a population register, although they vary on the degree of centralization. When it comes to access, there are persisting differences between countries. Judicial and language problems, for instance, still limit the access to registers. Furthermore, the issue of quality of registers is addressed: different indicators can be considered; also in this case, differences between countries are present. Overall, Nordic countries appear to be examples of best practices, with a longer tradition of registers, a well-functioning update system and the possibility to match information from different registers.
This review is meant to be a preliminary step to investigating how survey research programs are able, in practice, to use population registers as sampling frames and sources of auxiliary data. These possibilities have not been extensively investigated in the literature so far; however, they currently represent one of the key challenges of survey research programs for the future.
Period21 Jul 2017
Held atConference of the European Survey Research Association
Event typeConference
Conference number7
LocationLisbon, Portugal


  • sampling
  • population registers
  • sampling frames