What has the Census ever done for us?

How a national data set might help you connect with customers

2011 Census

The census offices of England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland released the data from the 2011 Census in phases. As the data became available we processed it to match the Census Output Area geography to postal sector geography, making it more useful for business use.

The census is one of the broadest and most complete datasets available for public use from anywhere in the world.


So with apologies to Messrs Palin, Cleese, Chapman, Gilliam, Idle and Jones;


What does the census do for us?

Commonly downloaded tables give:-

  • Headcounts (Population, Adults and Household)
  • Age in 1 year bands
  • Male/Female split
  • Approximate Social Grade (AB, C1, C2, DE)

Apart from the Headcounts, Age, Sex and Social Grade!

What else does the census do for us?

Among the tables giving information on how people work:-

  • “Economic Activity” describes whether people are employed, self-employed, students, retired or unemployed
  • “Method of travel to work” shows the mode of transport for people commuting. Whether by foot, train, as a passenger or driver or on other public transport
  • “Industry” breaks down the work type into 18 categories including Financial and Insurance activities, Agriculture, and Construction
  • “Hours worked” gives counts for full or part time working split by sex
  • “NS-SeC” categorises the skill level and responsibility of a job from Higher Managers and Professionals, through Semi-routine occupations to the Long-term unemployed

Taking into account how people work as well as the headcounts, age and social grade!

What more does the census do for us?

The census records how people live together:-

  • “Usual resident population” shows whether people live in households or communal establishments
  • “Living arrangements” shows if households live as couples or as single people. Some further breakdowns indicate marriages or same sex partnerships or divorced or widowed singles
  • “Household composition” indicates singles, couples and families along with whether the adults are retired or if the families have dependent or non-dependent children
  • “Tenure” provides counts on property ownership (outright or mortgaged), rental (social or private)
  • “Dwellings, household spaces and accommodation type” describes shared dwellings, flats or houses and the number of spaces they have

Granted the census provides data on how and where we live, how we work and how old we are!

What, additionally, does the census do for us?


Census tables that provide origin, ethnicity and migration/movement data include:-

  • “Ethnic Group”  counts residents in categories such as White, Chinese, Mixed Ethnic Group, Indian, Black Caribbean or Other Asian
  • “Country of Birth” shows counts for the home nations, Ireland and other EU countries before and after 2001
  • Religion
  • “Year of Arrival in UK” shows whether born in UK or the decade of arrival from 1941 to 2000 or in 3 year sections since 2000
  • “Main language detailed” shows the common language for a household showing languages as varied as Estonian, Sinhala or British Sign Language as well as the varied Celtic languages and English from the UK

Given that the census provides all the data outlined above!

What extra, does the census do for us?

The census gives a good indication of affluence and wealth

  • “Car or van availability” shows how many cars or vans are in the household
  • “Occupation” shows level of occupation from manager and director to machine operators and basic occupations
  • “Adult or Household life stage” is often a better predictor of behaviour than age
  • “Persons per room” indicates how crowded a dwelling is
  • “General health” shows the healthiness of the household as very good, good, fair, bad or very bad


What does the census do for us?

The census provides many variables on which to base your analysis. Whether you need age breakdowns, socio economic indicators, migration patterns or work patterns compared to life stage the census will have a variable that you can use. If you combine the data from several tables your analysis can be enhanced to answer your questions precisely.

Beacon Dodsworth takes census data along with other recognised data sets and combines the results into our geodemographic classification, P2 People & Places which categorises the UK population into 14 main categories that split into 41 subcategories. These categories are applied to individual postcodes and output areas.

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