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People have a number of identities including ethnicity, national identity, religion or belief and sexual identity. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) work to understand how best to measure these concepts, provide guidance to others, and carry out original analysis.

Publications

Babies First Names, Scotland
Department: National Records of Scotland
List and frequency of names given to newly born children for the calendar year
Census 2001 Commentaries by theme and region
Department: Office for National Statistics
The Census paints a big picture of society and is a benchmark at the start of the 21st Century. Census 2001 commentaries look in a little more depth at the 'big picture' for the UK, and provide commentary on aspects of a topic in England and Wales as a whole, and on topics in Wales or the English regions. The counts that the commentaries are based on come from the Key Statistics for local authorities in England and Wales released in February 2003.
Census 2001 Key Statistics
Department: Office for National Statistics
The Census 2001 Key Statistics series of reports provide a compact and self-contained reference of key results from the Census in an easily digestible form. Each report includes results for every topic covered by the Census, for a range of different geographical breakdowns of England and Wales.
Census 2001 Local Authority Profiles
Department: Office for National Statistics
The Census 2001 population profiles collect key figures from the first major reports on the 2001 Census - the 'key statistics for local authorities in England and Wales' - originally released in February 2003. This snapshot of the resident population provides population totals by age and sex and summary profile information covering People, Places and Families, Ethnicity and Religion, Health, Work and Housing.
Census 2001 Local authority thematic maps
Department: Office for National Statistics
The Census 2001 thematic maps illustrate the distribution of a selection of the key statistics from the Census, for local authorities throughout England and Wales.
Census 2001 National Report for England and Wales
Department: Office for National Statistics
The Census 2001 National Report for England and Wales contains detailed statistical tables that cover the range of topics from the 2001 Census. Released in two parts, the report contains results for England and Wales as a whole, in a variety of tables. Standard tables provide cross-tabulation of two or more variables, theme tables bring together a range of results on a particular population and supplementary tables provide further information on some individual variables.
Census 2001 Report for Parliamentary Constituencies
Department: Office for National Statistics
The Census 2001 Report for parliamentary constituencies provides a compact and self-contained reference of key results for constituencies throughout the UK. The constituency profiles are a summary of the main Census indicators for each consituency, with more detailed results available on the CD accompanying the printed report. Results are provided for European Electoral Regions, Scottish Parliamentary Regions and Parliamentary Constituencies in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Census 2001 Report on the Welsh language
Department: Office for National Statistics
The Census 2001 Report on the Welsh language provides tables that cross tabulate results on the Welsh language with others from the 2001 Census. The majority of the tables are those Welsh language tables contained within the main Census 2001 'Standard Tables', and are presented for Wales as a whole. In addition, some tables cover Unitary Authorities and National Assembly Regional Committee areas, and the Welsh language profile contains detailed Welsh language data for Communities in Wales.
Census 2001 Summary theme figures and rankings
Department: Office for National Statistics
The Census 2001 Summary theme figures and rankings provide counts and rankings on aspects of a topic for each local authority in England and Wales. Each local authority has an England and Wales ranking, and local authorities are also grouped into Government Office Regions to provide a regional ranking. The counts and rankings are based on figures from the Key Statistics for local authorities in England and Wales which was originally released in February 2003.
Citizenship Survey: Identity and Values Topic Report
Department: Communities and Local Government
This report examines attitudes to immigration, values, identity and sense of belonging to Britain using findings from the Citizenship Survey.
Continuous Household Survey Bulletin
Department: Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency
The Bulletin provides summary information as well as some trend data from previous years. It includes information on - smoking, household composition, debt, internet access, health, sport and leisure, environmental issues, mobile phones and job applications.
Experience of Irish culture and heritage by adults in Northern Ireland: Findings from the Continuous Household Survey (CHS)
Department: Culture, Arts and Leisure (Northern Ireland)
This biennial series of publications provides information on adults aged 16 years and over and their experience of Irish culture and heritage.
Focus on Ethnicity and Identity
Department: Office for National Statistics
Provides details of the ethnic groups in the UK today. It includes information on their characteristics, lifestyle and experiences, placing particular emphasis on comparing and contrasting the main groups.
Focus on Ethnicity and Religion
Department: Office for National Statistics
Brings together statistics from the Census on the key demographic, geographic, household and labour market differences between the main ethnic and religious groups in Great Britain.
Focus on Gender
Department: Office for National Statistics
Insight into the lives of men and women in contemporary UK society, including characteristics, experiences and lifestyle, emphasising the differences between the sexes.
Focus on Religion
Department: Office for National Statistics
Offers an insight into the different faith groups in the UK today. It looks separately at Great Britain and Northern Ireland; comparing and contrasting the characteristics of the main faith groups, their lifestyles and experiences is presented.
Focus on Wales: Its people
Department: Office for National Statistics
Overview of the people of Wales, looking at their characteristics, sense of national identity, ethnic diversity and Welsh language skills.
Gender Recognition Certificate Statistics
Department: Justice
Summary statistics on Gender Recognition Certificates applied for and granted by Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service’s Gender Recognition Panel. Under UK law, individuals are considered by the State to be of the gender – either male or female – that is recorded on their birth certificate. The Gender Recognition Act 2004, which came into effect on 4 April 2005, enables transsexual people to apply to the Gender Recognition Panel (GRP) to receive a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC).
Integrated Household Survey
Department: Office for National Statistics
The largest social survey ever produced by the ONS. The survey takes responses from current ONS household surveys and contains information from over 400,000 individual respondents.
Labour Force Survey Religion Report
Department: Office of the First and Deputy First Minister
To compare Roman Catholic and Protestant labour market outcomes.
Measuring Sexual Identity : Evaluation Report
Department: Office for National Statistics
This is an evaluation based on the Integrated Household Survey (IHS) experimental data, collected between April 2009 - March 2010.
Older People in Wales
Department: Welsh Government
This Statistical Bulletin presents data on older people in Wales.
Popular Forenames, Scotland
Department: National Records of Scotland
Popular forenames in Scotland.
Public Attitudes towards the Irish Language in Northern Ireland
Department: Culture, Arts and Leisure (Northern Ireland)
This publication presents findings from the Omnibus Survey in relation to the attitudes of adults aged 16 and over in Northern Ireland towards the Irish Language.
Public Records Office for Northern Ireland (PRONI) Digest of statistics
Department: Culture, Arts and Leisure (Northern Ireland)
This regular series of publications brings together key statistics on the Public Record Office for Northern Ireland (PRONI) into a single publication.
Public Views on Ulster-Scots Culture, Heritage and Language in Northern Ireland Findings from the Northern Ireland Omnibus Survey April 2010
Department: Culture, Arts and Leisure (Northern Ireland)
Providing views on Ulster-Scots culture, heritage and language in Northern Ireland
Sexual Identity in Wales
Department: Welsh Government
This statistical bulletin presents data on sexual identity from the Integrated Household Survey (IHS).
Social Focus in Brief: Children
Department: Office for National Statistics
Statistical picture of children in the UK, looking at characteristics and covering social circumstances, education, health and lifestyle.
Social Focus in Brief: Ethnicity
Department: Office for National Statistics
Draws a statistical picture of minority ethnic groups in the UK. It is the second in a new series of concise overviews of social issues.
Social Focus on Men
Department: Office for National Statistics
Overview of the changing lives and roles of men in the UK, including family lives, education and work, income and how they spend it, health and lifestyles.
Social Focus on Young People
Department: Office for National Statistics
Insight into the lives of young people in contemporary UK society; looks at a variety of topics including education, health, lifestyles, crime and finance.
The Experience of Ulster-Scots culture and heritage by adults in Northern Ireland: Findings from the Continuous Household Survey (CHS)
Department: Culture, Arts and Leisure (Northern Ireland)
This biennial series of publications provides information on adults aged 16 years and over and their experience of Ulster-Scots culture and heritage
The knowledge and use of the Irish language by adults in Northern Ireland
Department: Culture, Arts and Leisure (Northern Ireland)
This biennial series of publications provides information on adults aged 16 years and over and their knowledge and use of the Irish Language
The knowledge and use of the Ulster-Scots language by adults in Northern Ireland
Department: Culture, Arts and Leisure (Northern Ireland)
This biennial series of publications provides information on adults aged 16 years and over and their knowledge and use of the Ulster-Scots language.

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Overview

People identify with a number of different groups and communities, some of which are of particular social and legal significance including:

  • ethnicity

  • national identity

  • religion or belief

  • sexual identity

Key to understanding social and economic trends is the understanding of people's identities. Social and economic trends include monitoring inequalities as required by equality legislation.

Defining and measuring these identities can be difficult, as they are often based on personal opinion and feelings and can include several different aspects. For example, ethnicity can be based upon a combination of things such as physical appearance, language and religion. Accepted terms used to describe these identities may also change over time.

The UK is more ethnically diverse than ever before with 4.6 million people from a variety of ‘Mixed’, ‘Asian’, ‘Black’ and ‘Chinese and other’ backgrounds.

The different groups may share some socio-economic characteristics but often these differences will be greater between these groups than between the minority ethnic population as a whole and the White British population.

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Technical Data

Current position

An ethnic group question was first included in the England and Wales census in 1991. The question was introduced to enable organisations to monitor equal opportunities and anti-discrimination policies and to allocate resources.

Experimental Population estimates by ethnic group and by age and sex are available for mid-2001 to mid-2006. These estimates are for England and Government Office Regions, counties and local authority districts (also known as constituent administrative areas).

Broad components of population change are also shown for England only. Estimates are also available for health geography; Primary Care Organisations and Strategic Heath Authorities.

Ethnic identification can mean different things to different people and can be based upon a number of categories such as country of birth, nationality, language spoken at home, skin colour, geographic origin, racial group religion or country of parent’s birth. Therefore, this sort of information can be particularly difficult to collect. Guidance on ethnicity data collection is available on the National Statistics website.

This guidance recommends that wherever possible a national identity question should be asked as a companion to the ethnic group question. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) first introduced a question on national identity in the 2001 Labour Force Survey (LFS).

The 2001 Census was the first time that a religious affiliation question had been asked in England, Scotland and Wales, although the Northern Ireland censuses have included a religion question since 1861.

ONS have developed harmonised questions on ethnic group, national identity and religion which are recommended for inclusion in National Statistics surveys.

The harmonised question on religion is split into two parts, the first focussing on religious affiliation and the second focussing on religious practice.

Future plans

A detailed consultation on user needs for ethnicity, national identity, language and religion information from the 2011 Census in England and Wales took place between December 2006 and March 2007.

These responses, along with those from other users and stakeholders, informed further question development. Question testing research with members of the public took place throughout 2007. ONS made recommendations in November 2008 on the questions for the 2009 Rehearsal and 2011 Census. These will need to be agreed by Parliament in early 2010.

ONS has acted on a recommendation from the 2007 ONS-led review of equality data by introducing a new survey question on sexual identity. This will help fulfil legal duties on equality.

The question aims to measure respondents’ self perceived sexual identity. The survey question has been designed for greater equalities monitoring of lesbian, gay and bisexual groups. It provides an acceptable measure of self-perceived sexual identity for examining relative disadvantage at a national and sub-national level.

From January 2009, the sexual identity question will be used to collect data on sexual identity in all major continuous surveys of ONS. The surveys are:

  • Annual Population Survey

  • Labour Force Survey

  • English Housing Survey

  • Living Costs and Food module (formerly Expenditure and Food Survey)

  • General Lifestyle module (formerly General Household Survey)

  • Opinions module (formerly Omnibus Survey)

The first data from these surveys will not be available until 2010 as the surveys involved are carried out over the period of a year.

Further details about this work can be found here on the Sexual Identity Project web pages.

In Spring 2009, the project will produce user guidance which will collect all the evidence from the previous stages of the project into one. The aim is to provide guidance to both users of statistics and those organisations collecting data on sexual orientation.

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Glossary

  • Ethnicity/ethnic group

    There is no complete agreement on what constitutes an 'ethnic group' and terminology used to describe these groups has changed significantly over time. An ethnic group is a shared and subjective identity that can be based upon a combination of categories such as: country of birth, nationality/ citizenship, language spoken at home, parents' country of birth in conjunction with country of birth, skin colour, national origins/geographical origin, ethnic origins, racial group, and religion.

  • Ethnic minority

    Definitions of what constitutes an 'ethnic minority' are subject to much discussion. Where possible, the Office for National Statistics recommends that people refer to specific ethnic groups separately. If you do refer to different ethnic minorities as a single group, make sure that this will not be misleading. The terms ‘ethnic minority’ or ‘ethnic minority population(s)’ can be used to refer to ethnic groups other than White British (including White minority groups) or ethnic groups other than White.

  • National identity

    National identity can be taken to mean affiliation to a nation and as such is subjective and self-perceived. The concept of national identity should be treated as separate from both citizenship/nationality, which involves bureaucratic or legal statuses relating to a state, and ethnic group. 

  • Religion or belief

    Religion or belief is defined in the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 as ‘any religion, religious belief, or similar philosophical belief’. This includes beliefs such as atheism and humanism. However it excludes ‘any philosophical or political belief unless that belief is similar to a religious belief’. Questions about religion tend to be about one of three different aspects – affiliation, practice and belief. (Please see above Glossary entries for affiliation, practice and belief).

  • Religious affiliation

    Affiliation is the identification with a religion irrespective of actual practice or belief. The census and most surveys ask about religious affiliation.

  • Religious belief

    Includes beliefs typically expected to be held by followers of a religion and how important those beliefs are to a person’s life.

  • Religious practice

    This defines specific religious activities that are expected of believers. In 2007/08 34 per cent of people with a religious affiliation considered themselves to be practising.

  • Sexual identity

    Sexual identity is a dimension of sexual orientation. It is based on a person’s self identification. This is based on their internal feelings and affiliation with a community, which influences, for example, political opinion, health behaviours, and the likelihood of experiencing discrimination. Sexual identity cannot be determined in terms of other dimensions of orientation such as attraction or behaviour. Not all men who have sex with men will identify themselves as gay. Similarly, people who have sex with both men and women might not identify themselves as bisexual. ONS is intending to measure identity, considering it the dimension of most relevance to the equality agenda.

  • Sexual orientation

    Sexual orientation as defined by the Equalities 2006 Act, refers to an individual’s sexual orientation towards – (a) persons of the same sex as him or her (b) persons of the opposite sex, or (c) both.

  • Socio-economic

    Socio-economic characteristics involve both social and economic variables such as education and occupation.

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Contact Details

For statistical enquiries about this topic, please contact:

Equalities and Wellbeing Branch

Email: equalitiesandwellbeing@ons.gsi.gov.uk

Telephone: +44 (0) 1633 455010

Equalities and Wellbeing, Room 1.024 Office for National Statistics Cardiff Rd Newport NP10 8XG

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