Census data shows how life changed in England and Wales between 1961 and 2011

Using newly digitised census data, officials at the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have assessed how life changed for people in England and Wales between 1961 and 2011.

For example, census returns from 1961 showed that 68 per cent of people aged 16 and over were married, with a divorce rate of 0.8 per cent. By 2011, just 49 per cent of people were married or in a same-sex civil partnership, while the figure for divorces or legally dissolved civil partnerships had climbed to 9 per cent.

A trend of increased life expectancy and declining birth rates underlines how the population has increased and grown older over the 50-year period, with all but 3 per cent of areas in England and Wales seeing an upturn in their proportion of over-75s.

Coastal areas of Norfolk and Suffolk, in particular, have witnessed a surge in residents in this age group. The Norfolk resort of Hunstanton, for example, saw the proportion of over-75s increase from 6 per cent to 23 per cent.

Parts of Norfolk also distinguished themselves by being late adopters of modern plumbing methods. In 1961, 59 per cent of homes in one area of the county, Mitford and Launditch, were coping without an indoor toilet, far exceeding the national figure of 7 per cent.

The statistics highlight the rise in home ownership, from 42 per cent in 1961 to 64 per cent 50 years later. On both occasions, the lowest home ownership was in central London, with what was the metropolitan borough of Shoreditch showing just 11 per cent and 16 per cent home ownership in the two census reports.

Who people rented from also changed. In 1961, 28 per cent of households lived in privately rented accommodation, with 24 per cent renting from a local authority or New Town corporation.

By 2011, only 9 per cent of homes were rented from a local authority while 15 per cent of households lived in private rented accommodation.

The ONS is currently researching data from the 1921 census, while results from this year’s census are due to be released next year.

There is more about the comparison of census data between 1961 and 2011 on the ONS website.


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