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50 years of social change as told through the census

09 Aug 50 years of social change as told through the census

Life in England and Wales changed dramatically between 1961 and 2011, from shifts in housing and population, to everyday amenities and for the first time new digitised data from the 1961 Census Small Area Statistics can reveal the changes for local areas.

Today the Office for National Statistics has published an article; “Census unearthed: explore 50 years of change from 1961” which examines just how much life changed between 1961 to 2011.

From having an inside toilet to rises in homeownership and, even divorces, you can explore how areas compared to each other with our interactive maps and see how census questions evolved as society and areas changed.

Pete Benton, Census Director of Operations, says: “As well as providing a fascinating trip down memory lane and insights into our history, this new information shows just how useful census information was – and still is to this day. The census informs where billions of pounds of public funding is spent on services; whether that’s the development of new towns like Milton Keynes and Northampton in the late 1960’s or the demand for renewable energy in the future.”

The 1961 Census of England and Wales was the first UK census to make use of computers. However, only bound volumes and microfilm copies of printouts remained, locking a wealth of information in a form that was practically unusable for research.

Thanks to the huge efforts of crowdsourced table-checkers the data is now available for everyone. Some 2,800 volunteers made 5.5 million classifications to help turn scans of the 1961 Census Small Area Statistics into digital tables.

The historical census digitisation project is part of our ongoing work to digitise historical census statistics with our partners at the University of Salford Pattern Recognition and Image Analysis Research Lab (PRImA).