Population of England and Wales
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1. Main facts and figures
- according to the 2011 Census, the total population of England and Wales was 56.1 million, and 86.0% of the population was White
- people from Asian ethnic groups made up the second largest percentage of the population (at 7.5%), followed by Black ethnic groups (at 3.3%), Mixed/Multiple ethnic groups (at 2.2%) and Other ethnic groups (at 1.0%)
- among the specific ethnic groups, people from the White British ethnic group made up the largest percentage of the population (at 80.5%), followed by Other White (4.4%) and Indian (2.5%)
- from 2001 to 2011, the percentage of the population of England and Wales that was White British decreased from 87.4% to 80.5%, while the Other White group saw the largest increase in their share of the population, from 2.6% to 4.4%
- the percentage of the population from a Black African background doubled from 0.9% in 2001 to 1.8% in 2011
The ethnic categories used in this data
The Census uses a standard set of ethnic groups to collect and classify ethnicity data.
The 2011 Census used 18 standardised ethnic categories:
Asian / Asian British:
- Any other Asian background
Black / African / Caribbean / Black British:
- Any other Black / African / Caribbean background
Mixed / Multiple ethnic groups:
- Mixed White and Black Caribbean
- Mixed White and Black African
- Mixed White and Asian
- Any other Mixed / Multiple ethnic background, please describe
- English / Welsh / Scottish / Northern Irish / British
- Gypsy or Irish Traveller
- Any other White background, please describe
Other ethnic group:
- Any other ethnic group
Data on ethnicity is broadly comparable with the 2001 Census, with 2 exceptions:
- in the 2011 Census, 2 ethnic groups were added to the ethnicity question: ‘Gypsy or Irish Traveller’ was added under the ‘White’ category, and ‘Arab’ was added under ‘Other ethnic group’ – this may have had a small impact on ‘White’ and ‘other’ ethnic groups
- the Chinese ethnic group was moved from ‘Chinese or other ethnic group’ to a separate category under ‘Asian / Asian British’ – this means figures for the ‘Asian other’ and broad Asian ethnic groups are not directly comparable between 2001 and 2011, and the number of people selecting the ‘White and Asian’ ethnic group under ‘Mixed / Multiple ethnic groups’ may also have been affected
2. Population of England and Wales by ethnicity
|Mixed White/Black African||165,974||0.3|
|Mixed White/Black Caribbean||426,715||0.8|
3. Population of England and Wales by ethnicity over time
|Mixed White/Black African||0.2||0.3|
|Mixed White/Black Caribbean||0.5||0.8|
All households in England and Wales received a Census questionnaire through the post from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), along with an information leaflet and a pre-paid envelope for return by post.
Households in Wales received both English language and Welsh language questionnaires and information leaflets.
Householders could complete their questionnaire either:
- on paper, and return it by post
- online – each paper questionnaire had a unique internet access code
Responses were uploaded every day onto the questionnaire tracking system throughout the duration of the Census. This meant that households could be contacted if their questionnaire had not been submitted.
Communal establishments like care homes, and special groups (such as travellers), had their questionnaires hand delivered, collected and uploaded by Census employees. Individuals within communal establishments could also complete their questionnaire online.
There were 56 questions in the 2011 Census questionnaire:
- 14 questions were about the household and its accommodation
- 42 questions were for each member of the household
Topics included work, health, national identity, passports, ethnicity, education, second homes, language, religion and marital status.
There was an extra question about the Welsh language for households in Wales.
A census is designed to cover the whole population, but some people or households are inevitably left out by accident. A good census design will recognise this and take account of the error with quality controls.
ONS developed a ‘coverage assessment and adjustment methodology’ which estimates and adjusts Census data for the number of people and households not counted or counted incorrectly.
All the 2011 Census population estimates have been subject to quality assurance using demographic analysis, survey data, qualitative information and administrative data. This ensures that the figures are plausible and that users of Census data can have confidence in the quality and accuracy of the information.
Relative confidence intervals for the population by ethnicity down to local authority level can be found in the ONS archive.
Suppression rules and disclosure control
The ONS uses a number of ways to protect the confidentiality of individuals and households, including:
- record swapping, where small numbers of records are swapped between geographical areas
- restricting the amount of detail shown in published data, particularly at low level geographies like local authorities
Percentages are rounded to 1 decimal place.
Further technical information
5. Data sources
Type of data
Type of statistic
Office for National Statistics
Every 10 years
Purpose of data source
The Census is carried out every 10 years. It provides information that government needs to plan and run public services and is used as a benchmark for other statistical estimates. It also helps illustrate differences between various groups in the population.