Census 2021 microdata for England and Wales has been released and is now available for download. These datasets hold details of individuals and households allowing for detailed multivariate analysis that significantly extend the potential for research using census data. There are three safeguarded datasets available from the UK Data Service. To access them you will need to register and agree to the conditions for accessing safeguarded data.
The three safeguarded datasets are:
- A household dataset containing around six hundred thousand individuals grouped into households. These records contain household variables such as tenure, property type, deprivation, and ethnic groups. It also holds information on individual household members such as employment, health, age, sex, and migration history. There are 56 variables in this dataset.
- A regional individual dataset containing just over three million records with details of individual characteristics such as age, sex, ethnicity, occupational social class, employment, migration history, language, and health. It does not include the new variables on sexuality and gender identity. The variables provided generally include the detailed categories recorded on the census form. There are 89 variables in this dataset.
- A combined local authority dataset containing just over three million records with similar details to those in the regional dataset. Local authorities with a population of less than one hundred and twenty thousand population are combined resulting in nearly two hundred and fifty local areas. There are 87 variables in this dataset.
Census microdata has been widely used in the past to explore topics such as employment and skills, internal and international migration, housing and living arrangements, health, and deprivation. The latest version provides the ability to follow up on this research or to develop These new datasets provide the opportunity to follow up previous research on a wide range of topics such as employment and skills, internal and international migration, housing and living arrangements, and deprivation.
Whilst the ONS facility to build a custom dataset allows for reasonable multivariate analysis it tends to limit the number of areas available when more than three or four variables are used. The census microdata provides the mechanism to overcome this potential limitation and is therefore likely to be able to answer questions, albeit with limited geographical specificity.
The UK Data Service will develop materials and training events to support researchers in accessing and analysing census microdata for the 2021 census for England and Wales, Northern Ireland amd the 2022 census for Scotland. We also plan to produce a harmonised UK census microdata file once the data is available.