2011 Census Detailed Characteristics

On 16 May 2013 the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published the first outputs from the third wave of results (Release 3.1) from the 2011 census of population of England and Wales. They comprised detailed characteristics for local authorities in terms of cross tabulations for the questions on ethnicity, national identity, country of birth, main language, proficiency in English, religion, provision of unpaid care, and health. The full tables can be consulted at:


These tables include the following breaks for religion:

  • Religion by sex by age
  • Ethnic group by religion
  • National identity by religion
  • Country of birth by religion by sex
  • Disability by general health by religion by sex by age
  • Economic activity by religion by sex by age
  • NS-SeC (National Statistics Socio-Economic Classification) by religion by sex by age

A general statistical bulletin about the release contains (at pp. 15-17) a short analysis of the religion data, focusing on the distribution by age within gender for nine religious groups. It shows that the median age of Christians was six years higher than for all English and Welsh residents (45 compared with 39 years), with Muslims and people of no religion having the youngest profiles (with median ages of 25 and 30 years respectively). The proportion of Muslims under 25 years of age is 48% and of those professing no religion 39%. The statistical bulletin is at:


In addition, ONS has published what it describes as a ‘short story’ on religion, a separate 18-page paper entitled ‘What Does the Census Tell Us about Religion in 2011?’ Prepared by the ONS Measuring National Well-Being Department, it includes eight figures and two tables with associated links to data in Excel format. This paper is at:


There is also an animated video version of the ‘short story’ at:


ONS identifies the key points in the ‘short story’ as follows (slightly elaborated here by BRIN):

  • Christianity has the oldest age profile of the principal religious groups, 22% of Christians being 65 years and over compared with 16% of all English and Welsh residents, closely followed by Jews on 21%
  • The fall in the number of Christians since 2001 has largely been among the under-60s and, in absolute terms, has been evenly spread between the sexes (with roughly 2,000,000 fewer net Christians of each gender in 2011 than 2001)
  • The number with no religion has increased across all age groups since 2001, but especially for those aged 20-24 and 40-44, while the growth for women (89%) has been higher than for men (78%)
  • 93% of Christians are white (7% more than the national average) and 89% born in the UK, albeit the number identifying as white British was lower in 2011 (86%) than in 2001 (93%) – in fact, the net reduction of 4,100,000 Christians between 2001 and 2011 would have looked a lot worse had it not been for an increase of 1,200,000 non-UK-born partly offsetting the fall of 5,300,000 among UK-born
  • 68% of Muslims are Asian or Asian British, including 38% who are Pakistani, the latter figure up by 371,000 since 2001, albeit the proportion has reduced from 43% in 2001 – 48% of the growth in the Muslim population since 2001 is accounted for by UK-born and 52% by non-UK-born
  • The majority of people with no religion are white (93%) and born in the UK (93%), the rise in the number with no religion between 2001 and 2011 being largely (91%) among the UK-born
  • People with no religion have the highest proportion of economically active (74%), Christians and Muslims the lowest (60% and 55% respectively)
  • Jews have the highest level of employment (93% excluding students, including 28% self-employed), and Muslims the highest level of unemployment (17%, three times the proportion among Christians and four times for Jews)
  • Retirement is the main reason for the economic inactivity of Christians (69%) and Jews (57%), and for Muslims because they are students (30%) or looking after the home and family (31%)

BRIN hopes to provide fuller analysis of, and commentary on, these detailed characteristics in due course. Professor David Voas has already got the ball rolling with his blog post of yesterday on ‘Religious Census, 2011: What Happened to the Christians (Part II)’ This includes the hugely important estimate that the overwhelming explanation for the net fall of 4,100,000 Christians between 2001 and 2011 lies in the net ‘defection’ of 3,900,000 persons who were described as Christians in 2001 but not so in 2011, cohort replacement and immigration combined only yielding a net loss of 200,000 Christians during the decade. This process of defection is strongly age-related; the younger the respondents, the more likely they are to have moved away from self-identification as Christians. Read David’s post at:


The Census detailed characteristics on religion for Northern Ireland were also published on 16 May and can be viewed at:



British Religion in Numbers: All the material published on this website is subject to copyright. We explain further here.

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