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Census gives insights into characteristics of the North West’s population

Released: 11 December 2012 Download PDF

Statistics published today from the 2011 Census reveal the changing characteristics of the population in every region of England and Wales and the 348 local authorities that form them.  These statistics cover topics such as ethnicity, religion, country of birth, health, accommodation, tenure, and availability of cars and vans. Further details are given in the Statistical Bulletin and accompanying tables.

This release supplements the figures published in July 2012, which put the total population of England and Wales on census day (27 March 2011) at 56.1 million – an increase of 3.7 million (7 per cent) since 2001.

There were 7.1 million residents in the North West. This was an increase of some 279,000 (4 per cent) since 2001, and represents 13 per cent of the population of England and Wales.

The median age of the region was 39, the same as the England and Wales average. Within the region this ranged from 29 in Manchester (joint fourth lowest in England and Wales, with Oxford) to 48 in South Lakeland.

The North West is a diverse region with both large urban areas (Manchester) and rural areas such as the Lake District. Because of this diversity although some local authorities may show up as being of particular interest for certain topics the region itself may not share the same characteristics, for example, the North West is the most densely populated region after London however the least densely populated local authority in England and Wales is in the North West: Eden.

Guy Goodwin, ONS Director of Census said:

“These statistics paint a picture of society and help us all plan for the future using accurate information at a local level.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg of census statistics. Further rich layers of vital information will be revealed as we publish more detailed data at a very local level over the coming months.”

Some headline facts of life in the North West are:


Top 5 religions

North West, 2011, All usual residents

Rank Religion Thousands Per cent
1 Christian 4,743 67.3
2 Muslim (Islam) 356 5.1
3 Hindu 38 0.5
4 Jewish 30 0.4
5 Buddhist 21 0.3
  Total population 7,052  

Table source: Office for National Statistics

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There was a decrease of 11 percentage points in the proportion of people in the North West who stated their religious affiliation as ‘Christian’ as in most regions in England and Wales between 2001 and 2011. In 2011, 67 per cent of residents in this region were Christian.

The North West had the lowest proportion of people who said they had ‘No religion’ (20 per cent). This has increased by 10 percentage points since 2001

The 10 local authorities with the largest proportion of Christians in England and Wales were all in the North West, the highest being Knowsley at 81 per cent.

Outside London the local authority with the largest proportion of Muslims was in the North West : Blackburn with Darwen at 27 per cent (40,000 people).


Three of the top 5 local authorities in England and Wales with the highest proportion of people with an apprenticeship were in the North West: Barrow-in-Furness, Copeland, and South Ribble. Barrow-in-Furness had the highest proportion of people with an apprenticeship as their highest qualification (9 per cent).


Top 10 ethnic groups: all usual residents

North West, 2011, All usual residents

Rank Ethnic group Thousands Per cent
1 White: English/Welsh/Scottish/Northern Irish/British 6,141 87.1
2 Asian/Asian British: Pakistani 189 2.7
3 White: Other White 152 2.1
4 Asian/Asian British: Indian 107 1.5
5 White: Irish 65 0.9
6 Black/African/Caribbean/Black British: African 59 0.8
7 Asian/Asian British: Chinese 48 0.7
8 Asian/Asian British: Other Asian 47 0.7
9 Asian/Asian British: Bangladeshi 46 0.7
10 Mixed/multiple ethnic group: White and Black Caribbean 39 0.6
  Total population 7,052  

Table source: Office for National Statistics

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The North West had 90 per cent of its population stating their ethnicity as ‘White’.

Of all local authorities across England and Wales, Eden and Allerdale had the highest proportion of people identifying themselves as ‘White’ (both at 99 per cent).

The local authority with the second highest proportion of ‘White: English/Wales/Scottish/Northern Irish/British’ is Allerdale (98 per cent), after Redcar and Cleveland in the North East.

The North West has the second highest proportion of Chinese after London, although the number is relatively small (1 per cent, 48,000). Manchester is ranked seventh highest of all local authorities in England and Wales for residents declaring themselves as ‘Chinese’ (3 per cent).Pendle is ranked third highest of local authorities in England and Wales of people declaring themselves as ‘Pakistani’ (17 per cent). Blackburn with Darwen is ranked sixth (12 per cent).

Oldham is ranked third highest of all local authorities in England and Wales of people declaring themselves ‘Bangladeshi’ (7 per cent).

Country of birth

Top 15 countries of birth

North West, 2011, All usual residents

Rank Country of birth Thousands Per cent
1 England 6,273 89.0
2 Scotland 99 1.4
3 Pakistan 79 1.1
4 Wales 65 0.9
5 Poland 52 0.7
6 India 49 0.7
7 Ireland 48 0.7
8 Northern Ireland 37 0.5
9 Germany 22 0.3
10 China 21 0.3
11 Bangladesh 19 0.3
12 Nigeria 14 0.2
13 South Africa 11 0.1
14 Hong Kong 10 0.1
15 United States 9 0.1
  Total population 7,052  

Table source: Office for National Statistics

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In 2011 there were 577,000 foreign-born residents in the North West, 8 per cent of the resident population. Manchester had the highest proportion of foreign-born usual residents, with 25 per cent.

Of the 20 local authorities with the lowest proportion of foreign-born residents, 6 were in the North West: Knowsley, Allerdale, Halton, St Helens, Copeland,  and Barrow in Furness - all with less than 3 per cent of their usual residents born outside the UK. 

Health and provision of unpaid care

The North West had 19 per cent of people who said their day to day activities were limited by a long term health problem or disability. This region had 10 per cent of people who provided unpaid care for someone with an illness or disability (10 per cent for England and Wales as a whole).

For further information:

Media Line:  01329 447654  


Visit: for more detailed analysis and information


Data visualisation: 

Use this link to access interactive maps on topics such as Religion, Car ownership, Ethnicity, Dwelling type, Tenure, Year of arrival and Health. They can be embedded/used in websites using the code supplied in the maps. The maps can 'deeplink' into specific views of the data (ie a specific area and/or variable selection). Some maps are split screen, allowing graphical comparisons of 2001 with 2011 changes.

Background notes

  1. The census provides the most accurate estimate possible for the population of England and Wales and has been carried out every 10 years since 1801, apart from 1941, by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The information provided to ONS is used solely for the census, is anonymised and protected for 100 years. Census day was on 27 March 2011. All census population numbers refer to that day.
  2. Government uses the census statistics to allocate funding for services such as education, transport and health. Policy makers in central and local government use the census to identify the needs of different communities and they are also used by commercial enterprises. It also provides the benchmark for future population estimates and for sample surveys.
  3. National Statistics are produced to high professional standards set out in the National Statistics Code of Practice. They undergo regular quality assurance reviews to ensure that they meet customer needs. They are produced free from any political interference.
  4. The regions referred to conform to standard statistical regions. It is not possible to compare data for some geographies between 2011 and 2001 because of local authority reorganisation in this period.
  5. The next release of census data is scheduled for 30 January 2013.This will give Key and Quick Statistics tables at output area, wards parish and parliamentary constituency geographies. These will be accompanied by a statistical bulletin and census analysis. By the end of February 2013 Key and Quick Statistics for the remaining geographies such as National Parks will be published. Further information about each of the existing and planned census outputs is available via an online prospectus as:
  6. Census results are set out in tables under Key statistics and Quick statistics. Key statistics provide summary figures that cover the full range of results from the census. They are presented in a tabular format, with figures as both numbers and percentages, to allow comparison across different areas. Quick statistics contain data which refer to one variable and its response categories from a census question. Because of this, cross-tabulation is not possible at this stage.
  7. The main population base for outputs from the 2011 Census is the usual resident population as at census day 27 March 2011. A ‘usual resident’ of the UK is anyone who, on census day, was in the UK and had stayed or intended to stay in the UK for a period of 12 months or more, or had a permanent UK address and was outside the UK and intended to be outside the UK for less than 12 months.
  8. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available by visiting or from the Media Relations Office email:

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