United Kingdom Census 2001

UK Census 2001 logo
Form used to poll English households during the 2001 Census.

A nationwide census, known as Census 2001, was conducted in the United Kingdom on Sunday, 29 April 2001. This was the 20th UK census and recorded a resident population of 58,789,194.

The 2001 UK census was organised by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in England and Wales, the General Register Office for Scotland (GROS) and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA). Detailed results by region, council area, ward and output area are available from their respective websites.


Similar to previous UK censuses, the 2001 census was organised by the three statistical agencies, ONS, GROS, and NISRA, and coordinated at the national level by the Office for National Statistics. The Orders in Council to conduct the census, specifying the people and information to be included in the census, were made under the authority of the Census Act 1920 in Great Britain, and the Census Act (Northern Ireland) 1969 in Northern Ireland. In England and Wales these regulations were made by the Census Order 2000 (SI 744/2000), in Scotland by the Census (Scotland) Order 2000 (SSI 68/2000), and in Northern Ireland by the Census Order (Northern Ireland) 2000 (SRNI 168/2000).[1]

The census was administered through self-completion forms, in most cases delivered by enumerators to households and communal establishments in the three weeks before census night on 29 April. For the first time return by post was used as the main collection method, with enumerators following up in person where the forms were not returned. The postal response rate was 88% in England and Wales,[2] 91% in Scotland,[3] and 92% in Northern Ireland.[4] A total of 81,000 field staff were employed across the UK (70,000 in England and Wales, 8,000 in Scotland and 3,000 in Northern Ireland).[1] The census was conducted at the height of the foot-and-mouth crisis, which led to extra precautions being adopted by the field staff, and suggestions that the census may have to be postponed.[5] However, it was reported that the disease outbreak did not affect the effectiveness of the collection process.[6][7]

The census was estimated to cost £259m over its 13-year cycle from the start of planning in 1993 to the delivery of final results in 2006.[8][9] Printing of the 30 million census forms was subcontracted to Polestar Group, and processing of the returned census forms was subcontracted to Lockheed Martin in a contract worth £54m.[10] The forms were initially scanned into digital format, then read with OMR and OCR, with manual entry where the automatic process could not read the forms. The forms were then pulped and recycled, and the digital copies printed onto microfilm for storage and release after 100 years. Once the data were returned to the statistics agencies it underwent further processing to ensure consistency and to impute missing values.


The overall response rate for the census, that is the proportion of the population who were included on a census form, was estimated to be 94% in England and Wales,[11] 96.1% in Scotland[12] and 95.2% in Northern Ireland.[13] This was due to a number of factors: households with no response, households excluding residents from their returns, and addresses not included in the enumeration. In Manchester for example 25,000 people from 14,000 addresses were not enumerated because the address database was two years out of date.[14][15] The Local Authority with the lowest response was Kensington and Chelsea with 64%. Hackney had the next lowest response at 72%. Out of all local authorities, the ten lowest response rates were all in London.[11] The results still represent 100 per cent of the population, however, because some individuals not completing their forms were instead identified by census enumerators, and through the use of cross-matching with a follow-up survey.[16]

One Number Census

The results from the 2001 census were produced using a methodology known as the One Number Census.[17] This was an attempt to adjust the census counts and impute answers to allow for estimated under-enumeration measured by the Census Coverage Survey (sample size 320,000 households), resulting in a single set of population estimates.[18]


Although the 1851 census had included a question about religion on a separate response sheet, whose completion was not compulsory, the 2001 census was the first in Great Britain to ask about the religion of respondents on the main census form. An amendment to the 1920 Census Act (the Census (Amendment) Act 2000) was passed by Parliament to allow the question to be asked, and to allow the response to this question to be optional.[19][20] The inclusion of the question enabled the Jedi census phenomenon to take place in the United Kingdom. In England and Wales 390,127 people stated their religion as Jedi, as did 14,052 people in Scotland.[21] The percentages of religious affiliations were:

15% declared themselves of no religion (including Jedi at 0.7%, so more than declared themselves as Sikh, Jewish or Buddhist) and 8% did not respond to the question.[22]


After the 2001 census it became clear that the statistics for those adhering to the Neopagan group of religions were inaccurately recorded. This was caused by a dilution of statistics, with some adherents entering "Pagan" and others entering their individual religions such as "Wiccan" or "Druid", which fall under the umbrella term of "Pagan", leaving a significant number of people apparently unaccounted for. The situation was worsened when the Heathenism statistics were grouped in with Atheism by the Office for National Statistics.

The Pagan Federation and the "PaganDash" campaign lobbied for a separate tickbox for Paganism on the 2011 census, but were ultimately unsuccessful.



The census ethnic groups included White (White British, White Irish, Other White), Mixed (White and Black Caribbean, White and Black African, White and Asian, Other Mixed), Asian or Asian British (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Other Asian), Black or Black British (Black Caribbean, African, Other Black) and Chinese or Other Ethnic Group.

Ethnic group Population % of total*
White British 50,366,497 85.67%
White (other) 3,096,169 5.27%
Indian 1,053,411 1.8%
Pakistani 747,285 1.3%
White Irish 691,232 1.2%
Mixed race 677,117 1.2%
Black Caribbean 565,876 1.0%
Black African 485,277 0.8%
Bangladeshi 283,063 0.5%
Other Asian (non-Chinese) 247,664 0.4%
Chinese 247,403 0.4%
Other 230,615 0.4%
Black (others) 97,585 0.2%
Total 58,789,194100%
* Percentage of total UK population

Since the UK census relies on self-completion,[23] the composition of the other ethnic group category is not fixed. Analysis by the Office for National Statistics of the 220,000 people in England and Wales who ticked the other ethnic group box in the 2001 census reveals that 53 per cent were born in the Far East, 10 per cent in the UK, 10 per cent in the Middle East, and 7 per cent in Africa.[24] People could write in an ethnic group under the 'other' heading. 26 per cent did not specify an ethnicity, but of the remainder 23 per cent wrote Filipino, 21 per cent Japanese, 11 per cent Vietnamese, 11 per cent Arab, 6 per cent Middle Eastern and 4 per cent North African.[24]

English identity

Controversy surrounding the classification of ethnic groups began as early as 2000, when it was revealed that respondents in Scotland and Northern Ireland would be able to check a box describing themselves as Scottish or Irish, an option not available for English respondents.[25] With an absence of an English tick-box, the only other tickbox available was "white-British", "Irish", or "other". However, if 'English' was written in under the "any other white background" it was not clear whether it would be counted as an ethnic group in same the way as the Welsh.[25] Following criticism, English was included as a tick-box option in the 2011 census.[26][27]

Welsh identity

It is sometimes claimed that the 2001 census revealed that two-thirds of the population of Wales described themselves as of Welsh nationality.[28] In fact, the 2001 census did not collect any information on nationality. Controversy surrounding the classification of ethnic group began as early as 2000, when it was revealed that respondents in Scotland and Northern Ireland would be able to check a box describing themselves as Scottish or Irish, an option not available for Welsh respondents.[29][30] Prior to the census, Plaid Cymru backed a petition calling for the inclusion of a Welsh tickbox and for the National Assembly of Wales to have primary law-making powers and its own National Statistics Office.[29] With an absence of a Welsh tickbox, the only other tickbox available was "white-British", "Irish", or "other".[28][29]

Cornish identity

For the first time in a UK census, those wishing to describe their ethnicity as Cornish were given their own code number (06) on the 2001 UK census form, alongside those for people wishing to describe themselves as English, Welsh, Irish or Scottish. About 34,000 people in Cornwall and 3,500 people in the rest of the UK wrote on their census forms in 2001 that they considered their ethnic group to be Cornish.[31] This represented nearly 7% of the population of Cornwall and is therefore a significant phenomenon. Various Cornish organisations were campaigning for the inclusion of the Cornish tick box on the next census in 2011.[32]

See also


  1. 1 2 Office for National Statistics, General Register Office for Scotland, Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (2004). Census 2001 Definitions. London: The Stationery Office. ISBN 0-11-621754-5
  2. Office for National Statistics (2005), Census 2001: General report for England and Wales. p. 40. ISBN 1-4039-8768-8.
  3. General Register Office for Scotland, Taking Scotland's 2001 Census – A Review: Part 2, Census Operations Archived 25 November 2010 at the Wayback Machine.. p. 19. June 2002.
  4. The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (2006), Northern Ireland Census 2001: General Report Archived 17 February 2010 at the Wayback Machine.. p. 16. London:HMSO. ISBN 0-337-08773-3
  5. Paul Brown and Nicholas Watt. Threat to census as disease cases grow. The Guardian. 1 March 2001.
  6. BBC News. Census shows Welsh language rise. 14 February 2003.
  7. National Statistics. 2001 Census Field Operation Report. 26 November 2001.
  8. Graham Vidler. The 2001 Census of Population Archived 20 November 2006 at the Wayback Machine.. Research Paper 01/21. House of Commons Library. ISSN 1368-8456
  9. P. Boyle and D. Dorling. Guest editorial: the 2001 UK census: remarkable resource or bygone legacy of the 'pencil and paper era'? . Area, Volume 36, Number 2, June 2004, p. 104.
  10. BBC News. Census data security fear denied. 7 February 2008.
  11. 1 2 Office for National Statistics. Census 2001: National and local response rates, last revised 13 January 2006.
  12. Bernard Baffour. Modelling Census Under-Enumeration Archived 1 January 2011 at the Wayback Machine.. General Register Office for Scotland, Occasional Paper No 13. October 2006. p2.
  13. Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency. The methodological approach to the 2001 Census Archived 17 February 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
  14. Boyle and Dorling (2004) p106.
  15. BBC News. Census 'lost' 25,000 people. 4 November 2003.
  16. "The Big Number: Census 2001 reveals UK population is 58,789,194" (PDF). Office for National Statistics. 30 September 2002. p. 3. Retrieved 27 September 2010.
  17. "Census 2001". Retrieved 2008-11-01.
  18. National Statistics: The One Number Census - an estimate of the whole population
  19. National Statistics, Census 2001, Legislation and the role of Parliament, Nov 2005
  20. Explanatory Notes to Census (Amendment) Act 2000 Archived 7 July 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  21. "statistics.gov.uk". Ethnicity and Religion: Jedi. Retrieved 20 November 2006.
  22. National Statistics Online - Religious Populations
  23. "Ethnic group statistics: A guide for the collection and classification of ethnicity data" (PDF). Office for National Statistics. 2003. p. 9. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-21.
  24. 1 2 Gardener, David; Connolly, Helen (October 2005). "Who are the 'Other' ethnic groups?" (PDF). Office for National Statistics. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-22.
  25. 1 2 Johnston, Philip (23 April 2001). "Tory MP leads English protest over census". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2 May 2010.
  26. English tick box, No 10 e-petition response Archived 11 January 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  27. 2011 Census tick-box for 'English' national identity Archived 6 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  28. 1 2 Census shows Welsh language rise. Friday 14 February 2003. Retrieved 12-04-07
  29. 1 2 3 Census equality backed by Plaid 23 September 2000 extracted 12-04-07
  30. Census results 'defy tickbox row'. 30 September 2002. Retrieved 12-04-07
  31. from The London School of Economics and Political Science website
  32. Cornish demand tick box for 2011 Census
Preceded by
UK Census
Succeeded by
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