7 reasons why the census data is still relevant

By Thames Menteth-Wheelwright, Marketing Lead - on 06/01/2021

Census data is critical to Community Insight and as soon as the new census is released, we will be uploading its data to the system. However, in the absence of new data, the 2011 census is still useful.


The census is a survey that happens every ten years and gives us a picture of all the people and households in England and Wales. There is no other large-scale survey that gives us as much detail about us and the society we live in.


The new census data will provide insights into the profound social and demographic changes that have occurred over the last decade, which will be reflect on Community InsightFor the first time, this year’s census – which was first conducted back in 1801 – will be digital-first.


While we wait for the new data, though, the 2011 the census continues to be useful. Here are seven reasons why.


  1. It’s much bigger than any other survey


Despite Census 2011 data becoming increasingly out of date, it has a major benefit of dwarfing other large-scale surveys in terms of size and scope. Other surveys do not have the resources or timeframes to produce outputs at nearly the same scale. 


The second-largest survey – the Annual Population Survey has a sample size of 320,000 – which would lead to sampling errors that are too large to produce reliable statistics below local authority level. 


  1. It captures the whole population


Rather than a small subset, making it more reliable and robust than any other local or national survey.


  1. It shows hard to measure populations


Statistical techniques for the 2011 census were used to capture hard to measure populations in hidden households, such as homeless people, people living in bedsits or other hidden populations.


  1. It presents variation across local neighbourhoods


The 2011 census made it possible to produce extremely granular data down to the smallest neighbourhood geographies, enabling measures of variation across small communities and local neighbourhoods to identify hidden pockets of need and specific characteristics. A lot of local variation at a neighbourhood level on Community Insight is derived from 2011 census data.


  1. There are some questions only the census can answer


Since various themes have poor coverage or poor composite quality or both outside of the census, the census remains the only robust source of information on certain themes at local level. These themes include data on adult skills and qualifications, commuting flows, informal care, economic inactivity, self-reported health, country of birth and ethnicity. Click here to read the full list.


  1. It helps you to identify individuals in need


The 2011 census remains the best source of information to identify where individuals experience multiple disadvantages such as worklessness and low skills, or poor health and lack of access to transport.


  1. It has age and gender breakdown


Since census data is sourced from households’ responses to questions across a range of themes, its possible to link these responses. So, it’s possible to examine socio-economic data for a detailed set of demographic breakdowns, such as age and gender, to provide a definitive source of information on equality for key groups.


It is rare for other sources of data to contain breakdowns by ethnicity or nationality, which is a key gap when looking at identifying inequalities across communities.


Census data is one of the more than 1,250 datasets on Community Insight. To book an online demo or find out more about Community Insight, please contact Lara Phelps.

Add new comment