Waiting for Census

(This is a guest blog from Tom Smith at OCSI. The original was posted at http://www.ocsi.co.uk/news/2011/08/25/waiting-for-census/).

I’m going to take a punt that the Census 2001 is still the most widely used data-source in the UK when it comes to targeting local services and allocating resources (if you ignore underpinning datasets such as Ordnance Survey geographic stuff), despite being 10 years out of date. I’m yet to come across a Local Authority or other public sector organisation that hasn’t heavily used the Census for assessing ‘need’, and it’s also a major part in the way that public sector cash is targeted at different areas and communities (not least the formula used for local government funding).

And if you’re looking for commercial applications of open (freely available) data, census data is one of the biggest successes. Lots of commercial datasets and services rely heavily on census data, including the ACORN and MOSAIC user segmentations.

Which is why I’m excited about the arrival of Census 2011 datasets next year. The latest news is that the raw data has arrived from Lockheed Martin (presumably in big shiny steel briefcases padlocked to the wrists of very burly statisticians), and ONS are hard at work validating it all – with Census Director Glen Watson identifying coverage of 94% of the UK population (although some local authorities may reach as low as 80%, which suggests that coverage for particular groups will again be well below average).

So what is coming out and when? The provisional running order (download from the Census output page) is:

  • Data table definitions: September 2011
  • Final timetable for outputs: March 2012
  • First data release (July 2012): UK, region and LA population totals by age and gender.
  • Second release (not dated): Key Statistics and Univariate Tables from the smallest area (Output Areas) upwards. These correspond to the 2001 KS and UV outputs. [UPDATE: Rumours are that KS and UV tables will start to surface around October 2012]
  • Third release (not dated): Multivariate data from Output Area upwards. These correspond to the 2001 CS and CT outputs. [UPDATE: Rumours are that CS and CT tables will not appear until 2013]
  • Fourth release (not dated): Multivariate Standard Tables from ward level upwards. These correspond to the 2001 ST outputs.
  • Subsequent releases: Migration tables,  workplace tables (ie data based on workplace rather than residential), detailed ethnic/ religious group outputs.

In other words, second half of 2012 is when it all gets going (I’ll update the dates when these are published) – just in time for the Olympics.

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