This week in my student house, we received our code to complete the census (alongside the alarming threat of being fined a grand if we did not). So like the good citizen I am, I filled it out as did my housemates. But it did make me wonder why we have a census and what it’s for?
- The government use the data to track where people live so they know which areas need more funding, and it helps them plan new infrastructure projects and allocate money to local services.
- It’s used to track trends in the demographics of the British public, showing areas where more elderly people live who need extra health and social support, for example.
- It shows changes in the types of careers people have, shows the changes in the average household and helps identify inequalities.
OK, so that explains why a census is needed but where did this come from? Well it turns out that counting the population is a theme that has reoccurred across cultures in history.
- In the Han dynasty, 57.67 million people were recorded living in China. This census dates back to 2AD and is considered to be fairly reliable.
- The Domesday Book of 1085 was used by William the Conqueror to record all the taxable assets in England.
- In South America the Incan empire used quipus to record data on the ages, jobs and property of citizens. A quipu was a way of recording information using knots tied into strings which was used because the Incans didn’t use a written language.
- The first modern census in Britain was the 1841 census. One person from each household filled in data on the name, gender, age, occupation and hometown of each person living at the address. Not much has changed between this census form and the one I filled out.
Over the years there’s been various questions added to the census:
- Ethnicity was recorded from 1991 onwards, although data on mixed ethnicity wasn’t recorded till 2001.
- 2001 data on religion was collected too, which resulted in 330,000 Jedi Knights being recorded.
- This census is the first to record information on Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation. These questions will be voluntary but should help show the size of Britain’s LGBTQ population for the first time.
Anyway I’m sure you are all censused out by now. Make sure you all fill it in, nobody wants to get fined for a form.