The future of the census in England and Wales

Response to the ONS census consultation


The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is considering changing the way it conducts the census and provides population statistics for England and Wales. Census data are an important source of information on individuals for much health research, and proposed changes could impede this research.

The census is a survey of the entire population of England and Wales that has been conducted once a decade since the nineteenth century. The last census was conducted in 2011. The ONS conducts the census on behalf of the UK Government, and reviews the process after each survey. As part of its current ‘Beyond 2011’ review process, the ONS is considering options for the future of the census and the provision of population statistics for England and Wales.

The consultation describes two main options: the continuation of a full census that will be conducted primarily online in 2021, and an alternative that would be based on data linkage from various ‘administrative’ sources of information on individuals (e.g. NHS patient registers), which would be supplemented with small representative annual surveys on 4% of the population.

Since census data are an important source of information for many epidemiological, socioeconomic and other health-related studies, the Academy prepared a written response  to the ONS consultation in December 2013. This is available to download on this page.

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