On 6 January the 2021 Census for England and Wales released new data to the public. This release contained sexual orientation and gender identity data for respondents over the age of 16 living in England and Wales. These datasets on sexual orientation and gender identity are now available via the UK Data Service.
The 2021 Census is the first include questions on sexual orientation and gender identity. Respondents answered on an entirely voluntary basis.
Census Service Director at the UK Data Service Dr Oliver Duke-Williams noted on the release: “The importance of the Census is that it presents information on the whole of the population, allowing detail of diverse groups to be explored. It is a great step forward for the Census that that diversity now extends to understanding more about gender identity and sexual orientation, aspects of our lives that are vitally important, but which we’ve previously only really had data on through much smaller surveys.”
Dr Duke-Williams has written a brief explainer on this new part of the Census, outlining the phrasing of the questions across the four UK Census surveys and initial guidance on how the data ought to be interpreted.
Key data takeaways
- On gender identity: 45.7 million (94.0% of the population aged 16 years and over) answered the question “Is the gender you identify with the same as your sex registered at birth?”. 45.4 million answered “Yes” and 262,000 answered “No”. The remaining 2.9 million (6.0%) did not answer the question.
- Those who reported that their gender identity was different from their sex at birth was 0.55% in England and 0.40% in Wales. Within England, London was the region with the highest percentage who reported that their gender identity was different from their sex at birth while the region reporting the lowest percentage was the South West (0.42%). As the question was voluntary, analysis should take into account differences in response rates between different areas.
- 44.9 million people (92.5% of the population aged 16 years and over) answered the question on sexual orientation. Around 43.4 million people (89.4%) identified as straight or heterosexual. Around 1.5 million people (3.2%) identified with an LGB+ orientation (“Gay or Lesbian”, “Bisexual” or “Other sexual orientation”). The remaining 3.6 million people (7.5%) did not answer the question.
- The data showed few differences between England and Wales with respect to the proportion of respondents identifying with LGB+ orientation, but again it must be noted that answers were provided voluntarily. The English region with the highest proportion of people reporting LGB+ orientation was London (4.3% of the total number of respondents over the age of 16).
“Our first comprehensive picture of sexuality and gender identity”
Dr Nigel de Noronha, Research Associate at the UK Data Service, offered this comment: “Census 2021 provides our first comprehensive picture of sexuality and gender identity in England and Wales. We know there’s more to come about the lived experiences of those within the LGBTQ+ community, as further breakdowns of the data by age, sex, living arrangements and work are published.”
A further release breaking down the data by age and sex is scheduled by the Office for National Statistics on 25 January.
NB – More on Census 2021: latest releases
Last year the Office for National Statistics (ONS) began releasing the first univariate datasets from the 2021 Census. Our Census team has rapidly processed the data, meaning it’s now available via the UK Data Service, with added geography and derived output variants and named middle layer super output areas (MSOAs). Service users are also able to apply our updated Boundary Data Selector to the Census data. Once the ONS releases the multivariate data, it will also be made available via the Service.