Survey Methodology
Are probability surveys bound to disappear for the production of official statistics?

by Jean-François BeaumontNote 1

  • Release date: June 30, 2020


For several decades, national statistical agencies around the world have been using probability surveys as their preferred tool to meet information needs about a population of interest. In the last few years, there has been a wind of change and other data sources are being increasingly explored. Five key factors are behind this trend: the decline in response rates in probability surveys, the high cost of data collection, the increased burden on respondents, the desire for access to “real-time” statistics, and the proliferation of non-probability data sources. Some people have even come to believe that probability surveys could gradually disappear. In this article, we review some approaches that can reduce, or even eliminate, the use of probability surveys, all the while preserving a valid statistical inference framework. All the approaches we consider use data from a non-probability source; data from a probability survey are also used in most cases. Some of these approaches rely on the validity of model assumptions, which contrasts with approaches based on the probability sampling design. These design-based approaches are generally not as efficient; yet, they are not subject to the risk of bias due to model misspecification.

Key Words:      Statistical matching; Calibration; Non-probabilistic data; Data integration; Fay-Herriot model; Propensity score.

Table of contents

How to cite

Beaumont, J.-F. (2020). Are probability surveys bound to disappear for the production of official statistics?. Survey Methodology, Statistics Canada, Catalogue No. 12-001-X, Vol. 46, No. 1. Paper available at


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