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How to use Census 2021 data in Local Insight

A staggering amount of information was gathered in the 2021 census – the largest and most important data release for anybody working with place-based data. We’ve taken the data that was gathered and added to or updated over 400 of the different indicators within Local Insight.

The 2021 census data can be used to increase understanding of your local area’s demographics – essential knowledge for resource allocation and making evidence-informed decisions. Combined with Local Insight’s powerful mapping and reporting features, exploring this data has never been easier.

Here, we’ll provide more information on the value of the census data that has been added to Local Insight, and explain how you can best explore it yourself.

A small glimpse of some of the Census 2021 data available.

Understanding the value of Census 2021 data

For thousands of years (yes, thousands!), the census has been used to gather population information and provide authoritative knowledge about a town, region, or country. The latest census of England and Wales was no different, recording information on 59,597,300 people – the largest population ever recorded through a census in England and Wales.

Alongside age, race, location and relationship status, Census 2021 asked questions that explore the sexuality and gender identity of England and Wales for the first time. It also identified those who served with the armed forces, and gave us insight into their lives.

This information, which is available in Local Insight, is a valuable resource for councils, charities, and grantmakers to help identify and address community needs. 

The key data sets

The ONS published Census 2021 data as topic summaries that cover a wide spectrum. Here, we explore each of the topic summaries and the data included within each. You can analyse the Census 2021 data in a number of ways in Local Insight including through Maps, Dashboards and Reports.

Demography and migration 

The demography and migration data offers a detailed view of age, sex, household characteristics, and migration histories of population in England and Wales. The data gives an insight into how populations are changing over time as well as some interesting data on ‘Household Deprivation’, which we have explored in more detail here. 

Indicators for the following datasets are available in Local Insight:

  • Resident age and sex (3 indicators)
  • Household (1 indicator)
  • Number of Usual Residents in Households and Communal Establishments (1 indicator)
  • Legal Partnership Status (11 indicators)
  • Household Composition (14 indicators)
  • Households by Deprivation Dimensions (5 indicators)
  • Country of Birth (11 indicators)
  • Passports Held (17 indicators)
  • Length of Residence (4 indicators)
  • Age of Arrival in the UK (3 indicators)
  • Migrant Indicator (4 indicators)

Ethnicity, national identity, and religion

Understanding the nuances of an area’s ethnicity make-up, language proficiency, and religious communities can help you and your team to understand the cultural tapestry of your local area. We have updated more than  30 indicators in Local Insight, which gives insights into the population by ethnic group, household language, and religion.

Indicators for the following datasets are available in Local Insight:

  • English language proficiency (5 indicators)
  • Ethnic Group (25 indicators)
  • Household language (4 indicators)
  • Households with multiple ethnic groups (6 indicators)
  • Households with multiple languages (4 indicators)
  • National identity (16 indicators)
  • Religion (8 indicators)

The labour market and commuting

The data in this topic summary can help you to gain an understanding of employment patterns and commuting behaviours in the custom areas you create. Like all the data recorded in the census, it is important to consider the context of when this data snapshot was taken. For this topic summary, the data within the ‘travel to work’ subset will likely be irregular – as the census was carried out during the pandemic.

Indicators for the following datasets are available in Local Insight:

  • Economic activity status (24 indicators) 
  • Travel to work (21 indicators) 
  • Industry and occupation (22 indicators)


Census 2021 provides details on the state of housing including; housing types, ownership, heating systems, bedroom occupancy, and more.

Indicators for the following datasets are available in Local Insight:

  • Accommodation Type (9 indicators) 
  • Car ownership (4 indicators) 
  • Central heating (1 indicator) 
  • Heating type (11 indicators) 
  • Number of Bedrooms (4 indicators) 
  • Number of Rooms (10 indicators) 
  • Occupancy rating of bedrooms (6 indicators) 
  • Occupancy rating of rooms (6 indicators) 
  • Second address type (8 indicators) 
  • Second addresses (2 indicators) 
  • Tenure (10 indicators) 


There isn’t much education data that is published at neighbourhood level, so Census 2021 data provides useful information on the qualification levels of local populations.

Indicators for the following datasets are available in Local Insight:

  • People with no qualifications (Census 2021)
  • Highest level of qualification: Level 1 qualifications (Census 2021)
  • Highest level of qualification: Level 2 qualifications (Census 2021)
  • Highest level of qualification: Level 3 qualifications (Census 2021)
  • Highest level of qualification: Level 4/5 (degree or higher) qualifications (Census 2021)
  • Highest level of qualification: Other qualifications (Census 2021)
  • Highest level of qualification: Apprenticeship (Census 2021

Health and disability 

The data on health, disability prevalence, and unpaid care provision can be useful to understand pertinent health challenges at a super local level.

Indicators for the following datasets are available in Local Insight:

  • Disability (3 indicators) 
  • General health (5 indicators) 
  • Number of disabled people in the household (3 indicators) 
  • Provision of unpaid care (6 indicators) 

Sexual orientation and gender identity

For the first time, the census featured voluntary questions on sexual orientation. We have added 26 new indicators related to sexual orientation and gender identity to Local Insight. The data can be used by councils and charities to develop targeted, inclusive policies.

Indicators for the following datasets are available in Local Insight:

  • Sexual orientation (13 indicators)
  • Gender identity (11 indicators)
  • Non respondents to these questions (2 indicators)

The ONS also published 4 indicators; Non-binary, Pansexual, Asexual and Queer. These indicators are currently not available in Local Insight as the data is only published at Local Authority level.

Armed forces veterans

Using the census data within Local Insight, you can find detailed information on veterans; such as their household make-up, or whether they reside in a communal establishment. 

Indicators for the following datasets are available in Local Insight:

  • Household reference person indicator of previous service in UK armed forces (4 indicators) 
  • Previously served in the UK armed forces (4 indicators) 
  • Number of people in household who have previously served in UK armed forces (4 indicators) 
  • Population who have previously served in UK armed forces in communal establishments and in households (2 indicators)

Multivariate datasets

Multivariate data allows us to combine indicators to gain a deeper understanding of our communities. We have added nine multivariate Census 2021 indicators to Local Insight that are available nationally at Output Area (OA) level – so we can fit them to the custom areas you make, no matter the size.

Indicators for the following datasets are available in Local Insight:

  • Children providing unpaid care
  • Employment rate by ethnicity (5 indicators)
  • People aged over 65 with not good health
  • People travelling more than 10km to work by public transport and by driving (2 indicators)

Understanding the data

Councils, charities, and grantmakers can use insights from the Census 2021 data to identify areas needing urgent attention and tailor their services to meet specific community needs. When analysing Census 2021 data, there are some important nuances to be aware of.

The geographic level that data is published at

We work to make sure that our data is as comprehensive as it can be. Most of the data within the Census 2021 was published at OA level – the smallest geography. For the datasets on armed forces and sexuality, the ONS has published data at MSOA level. When viewing the data, we have used population weighted apportioning to estimate values for your custom areas – so this data should be used with caution.

Voluntary questions

Voluntary questions on religion, gender identity and sexual orientation were included within Census 2021. For each of these, a number of people did not answer the question – which means you can take two different rates from the data. The ONS has decided to display the results as a percentage of all people, but we have no way of knowing the characteristics of those who have not answered the question. Within Local Insight, you can find both options (i.e. a rate based on the whole population and a rate based on those that answered the question) as indicators.

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