Census 2011: Five lesser-spotted things in the data

By Lucy Townsend and Kathryn Westcott
BBC News Magazine


The census throws up some surprising details about the UK. Why is Manchester growing so fast? And why are there so many more women than men?

Here are five lesser-reported facets of the census.

Women v men

According to the census women outnumber men by almost a million. There were 27.6 million men registered, compared with 28.5 million women.

The difference in life expectancy is the most obvious reason for this - women live much longer than men.

But there are other factors.

One is a simple problem with administration - men are not good form fillers, according to Prof Jane Falkingham, director of the Centre for Population Change.

"Between the ages of 20 and 30 years old men are less likely to fill in forms," she says.

"They are less likely to be registered with a GP, they are also more likely to not be in the UK. Their details are classed as missing."

She adds that men are more likely to spend time working abroad or travelling, meaning their details are excluded from the census.

This point is echoed by Prof David Coleman, from Oxford University's Department of Social Policy and Intervention.

"Men find it easier to leave the country than women, they go abroad to work. Women may have children which makes it more difficult to leave the country," he says.

At birth the figures are reversed, 17,600 more boys were born than girls in 2011. The numbers are closest at the age of 23, when there is a difference of just 100 in favour of girls. But it is around the age of 60 that the two numbers move further apart. By 90, women outnumber men by more than two to one. By 100 it is closer to five to one.

"Women do have a better life expectancy, we live longer," adds Falkingham, "that is a big factor."

Eden in Cumbria is very quiet

The aptly-named Eden could be considered by many as Cumbria's paradise - according to the census, it has the lowest population density in England and Wales. While tourism is economically important to the area, it is often overlooked by holidaymakers heading for the more overcrowded and better-known areas of the Lake District.

So what's it like to live in an area that boasts 25 people per sq km?

There are also "big lumps of mountains with villages stuck in the middle" and "sheep, lots of sheep", says Ron Kenyon, who has lived in the area's largest town Penrith all his life.

Kenyon, who is a climber, rejoices in the fact that, when he looks out of his window, he sees hills, with Ullswater of Wordsworth's daffodil fame in the distance.

According to Kenyon, the local community consists largely of people who have been born in the area. There is low unemployment, and high rates of self-employment, he says. The area has "plodded along" as good road links to the regional centres were established, he says.

Now more outsiders are setting up home in the area, lured by its community feel, stunning scenery and accessibility.

Eden District Council's own website cites statistics showing that people living in Eden tend to be healthier on the whole than elsewhere in the country. "The life expectancy of males and females living in Eden is also higher than the national average," it says.

The area has been chosen as one of the four "vanguard communities" for the government's Big Society initiative. In the village of Crosby Ravensworth, successful projects include a community pub and a community housing scheme.

"From my experience of living in a remote community, you've got to do things for yourself," says David Graham, resident and chairman of one of the local community groups.

The community group he is involved with raised £300,000 for the community purchase and refurbishment of the Butchers Arms and secured £660,000 investment from the Homes and Communities Agency, with further investment for elsewhere, for 12 affordable homes owned by the community.

"The last village pub had closed, so we set about raising money through shares on a local, national and international scale," said Graham. "We now have shareholders as far away as Alaska, Spain, Singapore and Australia."

And what about the honour of living in the most sparsely populated area in England?

"That's the reason I live here," he says.

Two very different boroughs

It is a tale of two London boroughs. One very well-to-do, the other overcrowded and one of the country's most deprived.

Kensington and Chelsea is an aspirational area, but the census indicates that people are leaving it.

It's had a 2.2% drop in population. It is one of only four local authority areas in England and Wales that shows a decline.

"Maybe it's just too expensive to live there," suggests Falkingham. "It's the most expensive borough in London to live in, perhaps people just can't afford it.

But Yolande Barnes, head of research for estate agent Savills, cites a different factor.

"It's not about depopulation - it's about the number of people who were absent on census night. Occupancy is low - there are a lot of owners with second homes in this country or elsewhere who would have been travelling through."

At the other end of the scale is Tower Hamlets.

The east London borough has seen the biggest rise in population - an increase of more than 26%. The rise in households is 28%.

Between 2005 and 2011 an additional 12,463 houses and apartments were built in the borough. Another 43,275 are due to be built by 2025.

Employment numbers are also rising. In 2010 there were 51,300 additional employees compared to 2001 - a 33.4% increase, with a 57% increase in the Canary Wharf area alone.

There has also been a 25% increase in births since 2001.

"We have known that the population figures have been increasing year on year and at a higher rate compared to London figures," says Mayor of Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman.

"Whilst I am of course concerned about the demands of supporting a growing population at times of government cuts, the council has had effective plans for growth in place."

People are flocking to Manchester

Manchester is the third fastest-growing of the areas in the census. The city experienced the greatest percentage population growth outside London, with an increase of 19% to over 500,000.

It is a welcome relief to many in the city. After the last census in 2001 city chiefs were left disgruntled when the population figure came in too low .

After a dispute with the government, they managed to add another 25,700 on to the city's population.

Larger populations win larger government grants, so MP Tony Lloyd, who represents Manchester Central, is pleased with the new figures.

"It's very gratifying," he says. "It is important to get it right because grants are linked to population, we were being short-changed in 2001."

Lloyd cites trendy city centre living as one reason for the increase.

"There was a time when the only people who lived in Manchester city centre were caretakers and pub landlords," he adds.

"Now there are many thousands of people who have moved there and are living in modern apartments. The change has been dramatic."

Manchester had suffered years of decline in population, which has reversed in the past 10 years.

The target set by the city council is now to entice another 80,000 people into the city by 2027.

"The city is much more attractive than it was 10 years ago, the culture, the environment, things like that have made it very appealing."

People are leaving Barrow

image captionThe launch of HMS Astute in Barrow-in-Furness

Barrow-in-Furness in northern England, has the dubious honour of showing the highest population decline in England and Wales. Between 2001 and 2011, the population fell by 4% to 69,100. Much of this is accounted for by cuts in defence spending.

Barrow, one of the country's last remaining industrial towns, was once home to the largest steelworks in the world and was a thriving centre of shipbuilding activity. Now it is home to the BAE Systems Submarine Solutions shipyard, which was recently awarded a £328m contract to design the next generation of submarines.

But while government contracts have created employment, it has not always been the case.

In the recent past, employment prospects in the maritime sector have fluctuated, says Gareth Jones, news and politics reporter for the North-West Evening Mail.

In the past decade, the area lost nearly 2,901 people.

"The indications are that it's families that have left," says Jones. There has been an 18.7% decrease in the 0-14 population and a 17% fall in 30-44-year-olds, Jones notes.

"Barrow used to be big for surface ships, but we don't do that anymore. It could be that the effects of this are being felt. Now, however, orders are up over at BAE.

"Apart from specialist engineering, there is not much employment variation. And, like other areas of the country, the retail sector is not in a good shape, the High Street has been hit hard."

So where are these families going?

It's not clear, says Jones. But anecdotally, he has heard of families recently emigrating - such as to Australia.

Council leader David Pidduck says that there could be a number of reasons for the decline.

"There could be a knock-on effect from the 1990s when we had a phase of job losses," he says.

Another important issue, according to Pidduck, is the number of young people who have left the area.

"We encourage them to make the best of their education, to go off to university and then they go off and don't come back."

Because of industry, highly skilled contractors move into the area and then leave when their contract ends.

Also, he says, there is evidence that some families have been moving out of Barrow to places like the historic market town of Ulverston some nine miles away on the edge of the Lake District.

Being tucked away on a peninsula poking out into the Irish Sea, Barrow has often been labelled the "40-mile cul-de-sac".

"Of course we are concerned and it's something that we will look at but we don't want people to think that it's not a nice place to come to - a lot of inner cities would die to have our crime rate - it's very low," says Pidduck.