Socio-demographic area change in wards in England and Wales

Chris White, Office for National Statistics

[Project number 20077]

Britain experienced a sustained period of population stability over the past forty years with elements of natural population change in relative equilibrium. Consequently, attention of demographers has turned to the contribution of migration, both internal and international, on population redistribution and social change. Understanding patterns of sociodemographic population flows provides valuable insights into relative area decline or growth and evidence for resource allocation and service mix.

This application develops a workpackage measuring sociodemographic area change, using the ONS Longitudinal Study, which started in 2002 as part of the Neighbourhood Statistics programme. An initial exploration of the dataset determined feasibility of providing sensitive measures of change at the district level, using the transition of individuals between 1981-1991. Methodology for measurement of social position transitions within and between geographical areas was developed. Transition variables using the net balance of inter and intra district social position transitions, were derived (see accompanying material for equations and derived variables constructed). Key LS variables used in this analysis were:

Census History
Tracing History
Usual residence
Economic Activity
Social Class
County District
Date Immigration
Date Embarkation
Year New entry birth
Date death (
Date Birth Discrepancy Indicator

Cluster analysis was then applied with a total of 42 clusters identified with a district membership ranging from 44 to 1.

The next stage aims to extend this work to the small area level based on analysing the movement of individuals between 1991-2001 by geography, social position, and natural demographic change and to examine the level of change in area composition.

Change variables (please see form B) will be constructed and analysed for each geographical entity and cluster analytical methods applied to provide a classification of sociodemographic change for each county district and electoral ward in England and Wales using 2003 geography.

The objectives of this research are to follow the approaches developed at the previous stage:

  • Assess suitability of the LS to provide stable estimates of sociodemographic change between 1991-01 at electoral ward level.
  • Apply 2003 census administrative geography to 1991 census population by using 1991 gridreference/postcode of residence mapped to 2003 boundaries using arcview GIS package.
  • Construct a measure of social position using NSSEC and economic position at 1991 and 2001.
  • Apply net balance equation for each component (social position, age, death, birth, internal migration, immigration, embarkation) of area between 1991-2001.
  • Measure basic elements of population turnover such as internal and international migration and natural change by county district and ward between 1991-01.
  • Define and construct a classification of sociodemographic change that is meaningful in terms of socio-economic advancement or decline and apply cluster analysis to obtain logical groupings of administrative areas based on similarity of derived socio-demographic balance.

The LS is the only longitudinal data source representative of the England and Wales population that contains census characteristics of individuals across two time points. The continuous prospective design of the LS permits observation of individual transitions on multiple dimensions including age, social position and area of residence. This facilitates observation of social and vital event phenomena across time. Sample sizes are sufficient for district council analyses, but electoral ward analyses have to be tested following the extract.

This facilitates observation of social and vital event transitions over a ten year period.

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