The 1961 census was defined from the very beginning of its planning as a "scientific" census (i.e., whose declared purpose was conducting a statistical and modern census), and therefore this was the first statistical census conducted in Israel. At the time, it was among the advanced censuses conducted in the developed world, both in its methods and in its findings. It was also the first census which made widespread use of the data of the Residents Register, for the improvement of surveying the population. This use of data from the Residents Register has been made, and even widened, in all the censuses since then. 

The 1961 census was conducted in two stages. In the first stage, the entire population was asked questions on demographic subjects and later, in the second stage, 20% of all households received broader questionnaires with questions on social and economic subjects. This census was among the first in the world that was also used to distribute a broader questionnaire to a sample of 20% of the population.