This week’s Census data release gave us only a little peek at the veritable treasure trove that the Census will eventually reveal. Unfortunately those desperate to get their hands on more detailed statistics on things such as commuting patterns and neighbourhood analysis will have to remain patient. But to whet the appetite this first round of data did at least give a fascinating insight into the demographics of our cities.
One interesting aspect is the difference in the share of dependents – i.e. those not of working age population – across our cities. The table below shows those cities with the largest and smallest working age populations.
- There’s a 13 percentage point difference in percentage of people of working age across the cities of England and Wales, ranging from 62% in Blackpool to 75% in Cambridge. The position of Oxford and Cambridge at the top of this table is likely to be distorted by the presence of their universities.
- The bottom six cities take up their position because of their large populations of pensioners. In Blackpool and Worthing, at least one in five people are aged over 65. And all cities are by the sea, suggesting that this pattern is likely to have been driven by retirement decisions.
- These cities are followed by Bradford and Birmingham which have the seventh and eighth lowest share of 15-64 year olds in their population respectively. But unlike the six cities below them, this is driven by a higher percentage share of people aged under 15, rather than a large share of pensioners. Bradford has the highest percentage share of under 15 year olds of all English and Welsh cities.
Comparing the age make-up of our cities also gives an interesting hint towards migration patterns in and out of our cities. Milton Keynes is a good example. Despite falling just outside of the top 10 cities in the table above, it has the forth highest share of child dependants out of all UK cities. Looking further up its population pyramid (see below) offers an explanation as to why this might be the case – it also has the fourth highest share of people aged between 25 and 40. The economic opportunity within Milton Keynes, its relatively cheap housing and easy access to London is likely to make it attractive to young families.
Population pyramid for Milton Keynes
These patterns have implications not only for public services in cities but also the nature of demand for goods and services from the private sector. While businesses are likely to be more geared towards focusing on providing for an older population in Bournemouth, many more opportunities are likely to exist for family-focused goods and services in Milton Keynes.
We'll continue to analyse current and future releases of Census 2011 data which we'll post at www.centreforcities.org/census.