Population of England and Wales


Last updated 14 May 2019 - see all updates

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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
Things you need to know

The Census is planned and carried out by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) every 10 years in England and Wales. The last Census was held in March 2011.

The Census is the only survey to give a detailed picture of the whole population of England and Wales. It makes it possible to compare different parts of the country as all households are asked the same questions within the same time period.

For the 2011 Census, around 25 million pre-addressed questionnaires were posted out to all households using a specially developed national address register. Households could return their questionnaire by post or complete it online. Census employees delivered questionnaires by hand to people living in residential care homes, hospitals, hostels, boarding schools, university halls of residence, mobile home parks, military bases and other communal establishments.

94% of households completed the 2011 Census. Of those, 97% answered the question about ethnicity.

What the data measures

The Census is held in England and Wales every 10 years to collect data on every person living in the country on a specific date.

The census provides the only source of directly comparable statistics for both small areas and minority population groups across England and Wales.

The information the Census provides allows central and local government, health authorities and many other organisations to plan housing, education, health and transport services for years to come.

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:

  • Indian
  • Pakistani
  • Bangladeshi
  • Chinese
  • Any other Asian background

Black / African / Caribbean / Black British:

  • African
  • Caribbean
  • 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
  • Irish
  • Gypsy or Irish Traveller
  • Any other White background, please describe

Other ethnic group:

  • Arab
  • 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. By ethnicity

Population of England and Wales by ethnicity
Ethnicity Number %
All 56,075,912 100.0
Asian 4,213,531 7.5
Bangladeshi 447,201 0.8
Chinese 393,141 0.7
Indian 1,412,958 2.5
Pakistani 1,124,511 2.0
Asian other 835,720 1.5
Black 1,864,890 3.3
Black African 989,628 1.8
Black Caribbean 594,825 1.1
Black other 280,437 0.5
Mixed 1,224,400 2.2
Mixed White/Asian 341,727 0.6
Mixed White/Black African 165,974 0.3
Mixed White/Black Caribbean 426,715 0.8
Mixed other 289,984 0.5
White 48,209,395 86.0
White British 45,134,686 80.5
White Irish 531,087 0.9
White Gypsy/Traveller 57,680 0.1
White other 2,485,942 4.4
Other 563,696 1.0
Arab 230,600 0.4
Any other 333,096 0.6

Download table data for ‘By ethnicity’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By ethnicity’ (CSV)

Summary of Population of England and Wales By ethnicity Summary

The 2011 Census data shows that:

  • the total population of England and Wales was 56.1 million
  • 48.2 million people (86.0%) were from White ethnic groups, with 45.1 million of those identifying with the White British group (80.5% of the population) and 2.5 million with the Other White ethnic group (4.4%)
  • 4.2 million people (7.5%) were from Asian ethnic groups, with 1.4 million of those identifying with the Indian ethnic group (2.5%), and 1.1 million with the Pakistani ethnic group (2.0%)
  • 1.9 million people (3.3%) were from Black ethnic groups, with just under 1 million of those identifying with the Black African ethnic group (1.8%), and 0.6 million with the Black Caribbean ethnic group (1.1%)
  • 1.2 million people (2.2%) had Mixed ethnicity, with 0.4 million of those identifying with the Mixed White/Black Caribbean group (0.8%), and 0.3 million with the Mixed White and Asian group (0.6%)
  • 0.6 million people (1.0%) belonged to other ethnic groups

3. By ethnicity over time

Population of England and Wales by ethnicity over time
Ethnicity 2001 2011
Bangladeshi 0.5 0.8
Chinese 0.4 0.7
Indian 2.0 2.5
Pakistani 1.4 2.0
Asian other 0.5 1.5
Black African 0.9 1.8
Black Caribbean 1.1 1.1
Black other 0.2 0.5
Mixed White/Asian 0.4 0.6
Mixed White/Black African 0.2 0.3
Mixed White/Black Caribbean 0.5 0.8
Mixed other 0.3 0.5
White British 87.4 80.5
White Irish 1.2 0.9
White Gypsy/Traveller N/A* 0.1
White other 2.6 4.4
Arab N/A* 0.4
Any other 0.4 0.6

Download table data for ‘By ethnicity over time’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By ethnicity over time’ (CSV)

Summary of Population of England and Wales By ethnicity over time Summary

Census data shows that:

  • from 2001 to 2011, the percentage of the population of England and Wales that identified as White British decreased from 87.4% to 80.5%
  • other ethnic groups whose percentage of the population decreased were White Irish (from 1.2% to 0.9%) and Mixed White/Black African (from 0.4% to 0.3%)
  • the Other White group saw the largest increase in their share of the population, from 2.6% to 4.4% – this group includes people born in Poland, who became the second largest group of residents born outside the UK (at 579,000) behind people born in India (694,000)
  • the percentage of the population from a Black African background doubled from 0.9% in 2001 to 1.8% in 2011

4. Methodology

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.

Quality and methodology information

Further technical information

Census user guide.

2011 UK Censuses.

5. Data sources


Type of data

Survey data

Type of statistic

National Statistics


Office for National Statistics

Publication frequency

Every 10 years

Purpose of data source

The Census takes place every 10 years. Census data gives the government the information it needs to plan and run public services. It is also used as a benchmark for other statistical estimates, and can help illustrate differences between various groups in the population.

6. Download the data

Population of England and Wales - Spreadsheet (csv) 4 KB

This file contains: Measure, Time, Ethnicity, Value, Value note, Source, Geography