Three controversies in the history of survey sampling

Ken Brewer*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    16 Citations (Scopus)


    The history of survey sampling, dating from the writings of A.N. Kiaer (1897), has been remarkably controversial. First Kiaer himself had to struggle to convince his contemporaries that survey sampling itself was a legitimate procedure. He spent several decades in the attempt, and was an old man before survey sampling became a reputable activity. The first person to provide both a theoretical justification of survey sampling (in 1906) and a practical demonstration of its feasibility (in a survey conducted in Reading which was published in 1912) was A.L. Bowley. In 1925, the ISI meeting in Rome adopted a resolution giving acceptance to the use of both randomization and purposive sampling. Bowley used both. However the next two decades saw a steady tendency for randomization to become mandatory. In 1934, Jerzy Neyman used the relatively recent failure of a large purposive survey to ensure that subsequent sample surveys would need to employ random sampling only. He found apt pupils in M.H. Hansen, W.N. Hurwitz and W.G. Madow, who together published a definitive sampling textbook in 1953. This went effectively unchallenged for nearly two decades. In the 1970s, however, R.M. Royall and his coauthors did challenge the use of random sampling inference, and advocated that of model-based sampling instead. That in turn gave rise to the third major controversy within little more than a century. The present author, however, with several others, believes that both design-based and model-based inference have a useful part to play.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)249-262
    Number of pages14
    JournalSurvey Methodology
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013


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