The population census conducted in South Africa in 1985 covered the whole of South Africa, but excluded the "Homelands" of Transkei, Bophutatswana, Ciskei, and Venda. This dataset is the full census, as opposed to the 10% sample datasets provided by Statistics South Africa from 1996 onwards.
Kind of Data
Census/enumeration data [cen]
Unit of Analysis
The units of analysis under observation in the South African census 1985 are households and individuals
v1.2: Edited, anonymised dataset for licensed distribution
Version 1 of the dataset from the South African Census 1985 was downloaded from Statistics South Africa's website on 1 July 2010.
Version 1.1 was downloaded on 3 March 2011. In version 1.1 variable labels were changed to lower case, and missing variable labels (for dwelling, age, industry, sex and district) were added by Statistics South Africa.
In this version, version 1.2 corrections have been made to the value labels for the urban/rural variable (urb_rura) to indicate urban white area, urban non-white area, rural white area and rural non-white area, in the data files for which this information was available (Areas c, e, f, g, h).
A note has been included on the education level variable (educ_lev) to clarify the meaning of the "Grade 1" value in this variable. Grade 1 in this case refers to the Sub A, Sub B and Std 1 schooling levels. In the combined SA Census 1985 dataset available from Statistics South Africa's website this value has been renamed "Grade 1 and 2" and the definition of this value as Sub A, Sub B and Std 1 confirmed.
The scope of the South African census 1985 includes the following themes:
Individuals: relationship within household, sex, age, marital status, population group, birthplace, country of citizenship, level of education, occupation, identity of employer and the nature of economic activity.
Households: dwelling type, type of area (rural/urban)
The 1985 census covered the so-called white areas of South Africa - the provinces of the Cape, the Orange Free State, Transvaal, and Natal - and the so-called National States of KwaZulu, Kangwane, Gazankulu, Lebowa, Qwaqwa, and Kwandebele. The 1985 South African census excluded the areas of the Transkei, Bophutatswana, Ciskei, and Venda.
The 1985 Census dataset has 9 data files. These refer to Development Regions demarcated by the South African Government according to their socio-economic conditions and development needs.
These Development Regions are labeled A to J (there is no Region I, presumably because Statistics SA felt an "I" could be confused with the number 1).
The 9 data files in the 1985 Census dataset refer to the following areas:
DEV REGION AREA COVERED
A Western Cape Province including Walvis Bay
B Northern Cape
C Orange Free State and Qwaqwa
D Eastern Cape/Border
E Natal and Kwazulu
F Eastern Transvaal, KaNgwane and part of the Simdlangentsha district of Kwazulu
G Northern Transvaal, Lebowa and Gazankulu
H PWV area, Moutse and KwaNdebele
J Western Transvaal
The lowest level of geographic aggregation covered by the South African census 1985 is suburb. The suburb codes are supplied with the documentation.
All persons who were present on Republic of South African territory during census night were enumerated. Visitors from abroad who were present in the RSA on holiday or business on the night of the census, as well as foreigners (and their families) who were studying or economically active, were enumerated but not included in the final data. Likewise, members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps of foreign countries were not included. However, the South African personnel linked to the foreign missions including domestic workers were enumerated.
Crews and passengers of ships were also not enumerated, unless they were normally resident in the Republic of South Africa. Residents of the RSA who were absent from the night were as far as possible enumerated on their return and included in the region where they normally resided. Personnel of the South African Government stationed abroad and their families were, however enumerated. Such persons were included in the Transvaal (Pretoria).
Producers and sponsors
Statistics South Africa
Dates of Data Collection
Data Collection Mode
Statistics South Africa
The1985 population census questionnaire was administered to each household and collected information on household and area type, and information on household members, including relationship within household, sex, age, marital status, population group, birthplace, country of citizenship, level of education, occupation, identity of employer and the nature of economic activities
The following under-enumeration figures have been calculated for the 1985 census.
Estimated percentage distribution of undercount by race according to the HSRC:
Blacks in the “RSA” 20.4%
Blacks in the “National States” 15.1%
Central Statistical Service. South African Census 1985 [dataset]. Version 1.2. Pretoria: Central Statistical Service (now Statistics South Africa) [producer], 2000. Cape Town: DataFirst [distributor], 2011. DOI: https://doi.org/10.25828/s27y-b882
The user of the data acknowledges that the original collector of the data, the authorized distributor of the data and the relevant funding agency bear no responsibility for use of the data or for interpretations or inferences based upon such uses.