Census 2011: religion, race and qualifications – see how England & Wales have changed

What does Census 2011 tell us about the state of England & Wales today?

Marital status | Religion | Ethnicity | Year of arrival | Qualifications | Health | Property tenure | Economic activity

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How has England & Wales changed in the last decade? Today we get a pretty good idea as the Office for National Statistics releases the first detailed results of the 2011 census. If you want to find out what religions, we practice, how many of us are mixed-race, where we come from and whether we work, this is the place to do it.

Here’s what we know today:

• Four out of every five (81%, 45.5 million) described themselves as being in good or very good health
• 10% (5.8 million) of residents of England and Wales provided unpaid care for someone with an illness or disability. This was the same percentage as in 2001 (10 per cent, 5.2 million).
• The number of residents who stated that their religion was Christian in 2011 was fewer than in 2001. The size of this group decreased 13 percentage points to 59% (33.2 million) in 2011 from 72% (37.3 million) in 2001
• Most residents of England and Wales are White (86%, 48.2
million) in 2011
• 12% (2.0 million) of households with at least two people had partners or household members of different ethnic groups in 2011, a three percentage point increase on 2001
• Of the 13% (7.5 million) of residents of England and Wales on 27 March 2011 who were born outside of the UK, just over half (3.8 million) arrived in the last 10 years
• Home ownership decreased four percentage points since 2001, but
more people owned their home outright
• The number of cars and vans increased from 23.9 million to 27.3 million between 2001 and 2011. In 2001 there were on average 11 cars per 10 households whereas in 2011 there were 12 cars per 10 households. The proportion of households with access to no cars or one car declined over the decade whereas the proportion with two or more cars rose. London was the only region where the number of cars and vans was lower than the number of households
• In 2011 there were more people with Level 4 or above qualifications, eg Bachelor’s degree (27%, 12.4 million), than people with no qualifications (23%, 10.3 million)

This is not the first release from this census: we have already had population by place and sex, second home ownership and year of birth. So far we have learnt much more about England & Wales than we knew before, including:

• There were 27.6m men and 28.5m women in England and Wales
• The population has grown by 3.7m in the 10 years since the last census, rising from 52.4m in 2001 – an increase of 7.1%. This was the largest growth in the population in England and Wales in any 10-year period since the census taking began, in 1801. Between 1991 and 2001 it had gone up by 1.6m
• The average population density was 371 people per square kilometre; however in London this figure was 5,200. If the London figures were excluded, the average population density for the rest of England and Wales was 321 people per square kilometre
• Cornwall was the local authority where the greatest number of people recorded a second address. 22,997 people, usually resident elsewhere in England and Wales had a second address there which they used for 30 days or more each year

For everyone who’s about to ask ‘where is Scotland/Northern Ireland’? The data is collected separately and published at different times. Scotland comes out next week – and Northern Ireland does come out today, so we will look at collating that data too when we have it. Anyone who is wondering why each nation bothers to record the data separately, should check out this post on how devolution is killing national data in the UK.

What is the census actually for? It’s part of the fabric of British government funding. The Department for Communities and Local Government bases its funding decisions on population estimates which are in turn based on the census. The Departments for Health and Education also base funding for new schools and hospitals on the census data. The ONS says it’s also seeing an increase in community groups using census data to bolstertheir own funding applications by proving that a certain group is prevalent in each area – not least because the data is available finally at very local area level. The data finds its way to Europe too, where Eurostat use it for national population figures – and the EU for regional funding of development projects.

Will there ever be another census? A research project by the ONS, Beyond 2011, is currently looking at whether the census is even necessary. In May 2010 Sir Michael Scholar, then Chair of the UK Statistics Authority wrote to the Minister for the Cabinet Office to say that:

As a Board we have been concerned about the increasing costs and difficulties of traditional Census-taking. We have therefore already instructed the ONS to work urgently on the alternatives, with the intention that the 2011 Census will be the last of its kind

Could you get the same figures from ‘administrative data’, such as council tax records or the Electoral roll, a register of patients using the NHS, Child benefit, pupils registered in schools and pension claimants data? Lisa Evans wrote that In 2001 only 1,500 households of 21,660,475 failed complete the form. Interestingly of the 1,500 people responsible for the households who did not comply only 37 were successful prosecuted with a fine of between £35 and £200 according to the Census compliance report.

But for 2011, here’s how the data breaks down:


Christianity remained the largest group; 59% (33.2 million). This is down 13 percentage points since 2001 when 72% (37.3 million). It is the only group to have experienced a decrease in numbers between 2001 and 2011 despite population growth. The second largest response category in 2011 was no religion. This increased 10 percentage points. Interestingly, Christianity is not down everywhere. Newham, Haringey, Brent, Boston and Lambeth have all shown increases in the Christian population.

Over 240,000 people highlighted an ‘other religion’ on their census form – including 176,632 Jedi Knights.


The vast majority of the population of England & Wales are white – 86%, 48.2
million, down five percentage points since 2001 (91%, 47.5 million). Wales had the largest percentage of people of White ethnic group in 2011, 96% (2.9 million). In London in 2011, 45% (3.7 million) out of 8.2 million usual residents were White British. The number of mixed people went over 1m for the first time, too.

Year of arrival

For the first time, the census asks people what year they arrived in the UK. It shows that of the 13% (7.5 million) of residents in England and Wales in 2011 who were not born in the UK, just over half (3.8 million) arrived between 2001 and 2011.

The ONS says: “This relates to higher levels of migration seen over the last decade due in part due to the accession of 10 countries into the EU in 2004. Between 2004 and 2006, 15% (1.2 million) of non UK born usual residents arrived in England and Wales, and 16% (1.2 million) arrived between 2007 and 2009. This compares with 17% (1.2 million) in the decade 1991 to 2000. Foreign born usual residents who arrived prior to 2001 will have decreased as a proportion of the total, due to mortality, onward migration or return to country of origin”

Marital status

The largest group was people who were married, at 47% (21.2 million). This was a decrease of four percentage points from the 2001 estimate of 51 per cent (21.2 million). Civil partnerships, as a new legal partnership status, were
a small proportion of the total – less than one per cent (105,000). The percentage of single (never married) people increased five percentage points from 30% (12.5 million) in 2001 to 35% (15.7 million) in 2011. The remainder of the usually resident population in 2011 was composed
of divorced (9%, 4.1 million), widowed (7%, 3.2 million), and separated (3%, 1.2 million) individuals from either opposite or same sex relationships.


27% (12.4 million) had achieved a degree or above in 2011. This was a higher percentage than those that had no qualifications; 23 per cent (10.3 million). The group who reported no qualifications includes those aged 16 and over who were still studying ie some respondents had not completed their education.


The majority, 81% (45.5 million), described themselves as being
in good or very good health. A further 13% (7.4 million) described their health as fair, and the remaining 6% (3.1 million) described their health as bad or very bad.

Property tenure

Owning with a mortgage or loan is top, followed by owned outright, renting from a private and then renting from the council, Ownership with a mortgage decreased six percentage points from 39% (8.4 million) in 2001 to 33% (7.6 million) in 2011, while ownership outright increased by two percentage points from 29% (6.4 million) in 2001 to 31% (7.2 million) in 2011. Renting from the council decreased four percentage points – reflecting the sale of council houses.

Economic activity

The full data is below. What can you do with it?

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