The census 1911-1931
In the 20th century, both technological and social
developments brought change to the census. Mechanical sorting
was introduced in time for the 1911 census. The same census
also saw the introduction of a question about the fertility
of marriage - prompted by the concern about falling birth
rates - and a distinction between occupation and industry.
This latter innovation, which was repeated in 1921, not
only produced more accurate results, but allowed new theories
about social class to develop. In 1921 people were asked
about their education and how they travelled to work. In
1931, however, the onset of widespread economic depression
reduced the scope of the census, and the questions that
had been introduced in 1911 and 1921 were dropped.
The census 1951-2001
| The outbreak of war
in 1939 meant that no census was taken in 1941, but peacetime
- and the spirit of confidence it engendered - prompted another
expansion in 1951. Questions regarding place of work, educational
standards, fertility and household amenities were introduced.
This broadening of scope has continued to characterise each
subsequent census, reflecting how society is changing. Recent
examples of this include a question about educational and
professional qualifications (1961); how many cars and vans
each household owns (1981); and an assessment of an individual's
The other major change to the census in
the post-war period has been in the method of analysing
the data. Computers were used for the first time in 1961
and, although it took about the same length of time to process
the information, twice the amount of results were produced.
Significant advances in technology have considerably speeded
up the process and the Office for National Statistics (ONS)
forecast, for the 2001 census, that they would be able to
produce over two billion individual statistics from the
information they received in April 2001.
Using the census after 1901
Although statistical analysis from each census is published,
data on individuals is closed to the public for 100 years.
This means that the latest one for which historians can
see these details is the
1901 census. The census for 1911 will be opened to the
public on the first working day of 2012.