More Census Data and Other News

It is a matter of two quantitative steps forward and one back this week. On the upside, more religion data have been released from the 2011 census and new survey research has been commissioned for the 2013 Westminster Faith Debates. On the downside, the standard published source of national-level Roman Catholic statistics in England and Wales has been discontinued.

More census data

The Office for National Statistics released further micro-level data from the 2011 religion census of England and Wales on 30 January 2013. The following religion reference tables are now available in Excel format by clicking the links to ‘key statistics’ and ‘quick statistics’ at:

TABLE KS209EW – 9 category classification of religion for:

  • regions, counties, London boroughs, districts, and unitary authorities in England and Wales
  • unitary authorities in Wales

TABLE QS210EW – 58 category classification of religion for:

  • regions, counties, London boroughs, districts, and unitary authorities in England and Wales
  • regions, counties, London boroughs, districts, unitary authorities, and wards in England and Wales
  • regions, districts, Middle Layer Super Output Areas, and Lower Layer Super Output Areas in England and Wales
  • unitary authorities in Wales
  • unitary authorities and electoral districts in Wales
  • Middle Layer Super Output Areas, Lower Layer Super Output Areas, and Output Areas in London
  • Ditto in Eastern England
  • Ditto in the East Midlands
  • Ditto in the North East
  • Ditto in the North West
  • Ditto in the South East
  • Ditto in the South West
  • Ditto in the West Midlands
  • Ditto in Wales
  • Ditto in Yorkshire and the Humber

Meanwhile, church statistician Peter Brierley has continued his analysis of the 2011 religion census data in the current issue (No. 25, February 2013) of FutureFirst, the bimonthly bulletin of Brierley Consultancy. There is an article on ‘Census Sense’ on pp. 1-2 of the main bulletin, and further detail on pp. 1-2 of an accompanying paper on ‘Religion, Age, and Gender from the 2011 Census’. Brierley is also offering (for £2) a 2,800-word report on Making Sense of the Census. For more information, contact Brierley Consultancy, 1 Thorpe Avenue, Tonbridge, Kent, TN10 4PW, email

In ‘Census Sense’ Brierley hypothesizes that the decrease of 3.8 million in the number of professing Christians in England between 2001 and 2011 is accounted for by an addition of 1 million new Christians less 4.3 million Christians who died during the decade less 0.5 million other losses to Christianity between 2001 and 2011.

In ‘Religion, Age, and Gender’ Brierley directly addresses the question of whether Christianity in Britain will die out. He concludes: ‘We are not yet in the final generation of Christians, and the next generation will not be the last either, but the Christian scene is likely to alter very considerably over the next 20 years or so’. He further suggests that ‘the Church of England’s actuaries forecasting that Anglican church attendance could drop 58% by 2030 is about right for most of the other denominations also’.

Westminster Faith Debates

The 2013 series of Westminster Faith Debates, which aims to ‘bring the best research and thinking on religion into public debate’, is about to commence. Organized by Professor Linda Woodhead of Lancaster University and Rt Hon Charles Clarke under the auspices of the Religion and Society Programme, the theme of the series is ‘Religion and personal life’. The debates take place in central London, as follows:

  • Wednesday, 13 February: ‘Stem cell research, abortion, and the “soul of the embryo”?’
  • Wednesday, 27 February: ‘Too much sex these days – the sexualisation of society?’
  • Thursday, 14 March: ‘Is it right for religions to treat men and women differently?’
  • Wednesday, 27 March: ‘What’s a traditional family and do we need it?’
  • Thursday, 18 April: ‘Do Christians really oppose gay marriage?’
  • Thursday, 2 May: Should we legislate to permit assisted dying?’

For full details of speakers and how to register to attend, go to:

To inform this year’s series of debates, the organizers have commissioned YouGov to conduct original online research into the issues which will be covered. Fieldwork took place on 25-30 January 2013 with 4,437 adult Britons, a much larger sample than in most opinion polls. In addition to three or four topical questions for each debate, there are a dozen or so background questions to measure the religion of respondents, thus permitting multiple cross-tabulations.

Results of this YouGov survey will be incrementally released in connection with each of the debates and will also be selectively covered on BRIN at the same time. To contextualize the findings, BRIN has researched comparative poll data for Britain since 2005. Also watch out for the series of articles linked to the debates which will be published in The Tablet on 9 and 23 February, 9 and 23 March, and 13 and 27 April.

Roman Catholic statistics

The 2013 edition of the annual (commercially published) Catholic Directory of England and Wales is the first for exactly a century not to include a section on Catholic statistics. In the absence of any central statistical unit in the English and Welsh Church, the Catholic Directory has long performed a useful public service in collating the figures gathered annually by each of the 22 dioceses. The volume and range of this information had already been thinned out by the Catholic Directory over recent years, but now it has come to a grinding halt.

The editor of the publication explains the decision to discontinue the statistical section thus: ‘For some time I have been troubled by the lack of consistency from one year to the next. Rather than publish potentially misleading information, it would be better to apply to the individual dioceses for up-to-date details as and when required’.

Even though the data were known to be of variable quality, and have been extensively critiqued by commentators such as Tony Spencer, the Catholic Directory has been an accessible national-level source, especially for those outside the Church. The editor’s advice to make enquiries of multiple dioceses is hardly helpful or practicable, especially for the all important pastoral and population statistics.

One can but hope that the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales will now act to plug the hole. We understand that the Conference’s Department of Evangelisation and Catechesis is in the process of scoping a project to obtain a more accurate picture of the make-up of the Catholic community in England and Wales. This is to be warmly welcomed and, if implemented, would address the internal data requirements of the Church as well as the public interest, thereby avoiding potentially ill-founded estimates.


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

This entry was posted in Attitudes towards Religion, News from religious organisations, Official data, Religion in public debate, Religious Census, Survey news and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.