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Statistical bulletin: Super Output Area Mid-Year Population Estimates, Mid-2012 This product is designated as National Statistics

Released: 17 October 2013 Download PDF

Annual Mid-year Population Estimates for lower and middle layer Super Output Areas, 2012

  • In mid-2012 there were 34,753 lower layer SOAs (LSOAs) in England and Wales with a mean population of 1,630 and 7,201 middle layer SOAs (MSOAs) with a mean population of 7,860.
  • The LSOAs with the highest population densities are all in Inner London, with the most densely populated area in mid-2012 being Kensington and Chelsea 021C, where approximately 1,200 people were living in an area of 0.02 square kilometres.
  • In mid-2012 the least densely populated LSOA in England and Wales was Northumberland 019C in Northumberland National Park at 2.6 persons per square kilometre.
  • Super Output Area (SOA) population estimates are particularly important for use in many areas of research as they provide key demographic information on small geographic areas that were designed specifically for the purpose of enabling statistical analysis.

Summary

This bulletin presents the 2012 mid-year population estimates for lower layer and middle layer Super Output Areas (LSOA and MSOA respectively), which are small areas within England and Wales. These estimates are consistent with the results of the 2011 Census and are available for the 2011 LSOA and MSOA geographic boundaries published in October 2012.

Population estimates for LSOAs and MSOAs are often used for research and analysis as, unlike other small area geographies such as wards, they are specifically designed for statistical purposes. In particular, they are used by both central government departments and local authorities for a range of purposes including planning and monitoring of services and as denominators for the calculation of various rates and indicators.

 

Introduction

Mid-year population estimates for 2012 for England and Wales, regions within England, and local authorities within England and Wales, were published on 26 June 2013. The estimates refer to the usually resident population as at 30 June of the reference year and are published annually. In mid-2012 the population of England and Wales was 56,567,800, an increase of 0.7% since mid-2011 and 7.5% over the ten years since mid-2002.

Small Area Population Estimates

Mid-year population estimates for small areas within England and Wales are also published annually, approximately three months after the publication of national, regional and local authority level estimates.

The mid-2012 small area population estimates, referred to in this bulletin, are based on the 2011 Census, rolled forward from mid-2011 to mid-2012 using a ratio change methodology. This approach uses the change in the population recorded in administrative sources as an indicator of change in the true population. A full description of the methods used to calculate small area population estimates is available in the methodology guide (130.7 Kb Pdf) published on the ONS website.

The mid-2012 small area population estimates are fully consistent with population estimates for higher levels of geography including local authorities, regions and the national total for England and Wales. A revised back series of small area population estimates for mid-2002 to mid-2010 are provisionally due to be published in November 2013 in order to provide a time-series that is consistent with the revised population estimates for local authorities, published on 30 April 2013.

Small area population estimates are used by both central government departments and local authorities for a range of purposes including planning and monitoring of services and as denominators for the calculation of various rates and indicators. For further information on the quality and use of these statistics, please see the Quality and Methodology Information for small area population estimates.

What are Super Output Areas?

Super Output Areas (SOAs) were introduced in 2004 to improve the reporting of small area statistics. They are built from groups of census output areas, are of a consistent size and are not subject to boundary changes between censuses. Where possible they are formed from groups of socially similar households and align with local features such as roads and railway lines. The comparability and stability of the geography is a key benefit to users of statistics which cannot be provided by other small area administrative geographies such as wards or parishes.

Following the 2011 Census, some boundary changes to SOAs were required and a new set of SOA boundaries was published in October 2012. However, the stability of the geography has been largely maintained with 97.5% of lower layer SOAs and 97.9% of middle layer SOAs remaining unchanged. For further information please see the full report: ' Changes to Output Areas and Super Output Areas in England and Wales, 2001 to 2011 (287.3 Kb Pdf) '.

The mid-2012 population estimates presented in this release are provided for the 2011 SOA boundaries.

Two levels of SOAs are available in England and Wales:

  • Lower layer (LSOAs) designed to have a population of between 1,000 and 3,000 in 2011. There are 34,753 LSOAs in England and Wales.

  • Middle layer (MSOAs) designed to have a population of between 5,000 and 15,000 in 2011. There are 7,201 MSOAs in England and Wales. MSOAs are aggregations of LSOAs.

Further information on SOAs, can be obtained from the geography section of the ONS website.

Mid-2012 Super Output Area Population Estimates

At mid-2012, the mean population of lower layer Super Output Areas (LSOAs) in England and Wales was 1,630, with population sizes ranging from 930 in Ipswich 007F to 7,980 in Oxford 008A. This area of Ipswich is located in the redeveloped docklands area of the town, while Oxford 008A includes many colleges belonging to Oxford University. Figure 1 below summarises total population change at LSOA level over the one-year period between mid-2011 and mid-2012. Annual population change was less than 1% in approximately 44% of LSOAs and less than 3% in about 87% of LSOAs.

Figure 1: Distribution of LSOAs by population change, mid-2011 to mid-2012

Figure 1: Distribution of LSOAs by population change, mid-2011 to mid-2012
Source: Office for National Statistics

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The mean population of middle layer Super Output Areas (MSOAs) was 7,860 in mid-2012. Excluding the Isles of Scilly, the smallest MSOA (Forest of Dean 006) had a population of 4,960 whilst the MSOA with the largest population at mid-2012 was Richmondshire 004 with approximately 16,870 usual residents. This area has a high population of armed forces including those stationed at Catterick Garrison. Figure 2 below summarises total population change at MSOA level over the one-year period between mid-2011 and mid-2012. Annual population change was less than 1% in approximately 63% of MSOAs and less than 3% in about 94% of MSOAs.

Figure 2: Distribution of MSOAs by population change, mid-2011 to mid-2012

Figure 2: Distribution of MSOAs by population change, mid-2011 to mid-2012
Source: Office for National Statistics

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Age Distribution

The median age of the population of England and Wales in mid-2012 was 39.6.

The median age for LSOAs within England and Wales varies widely between different areas. In mid-2012 the lowest median age in an LSOA was 18.0 in Salford 016E, an area to the north-east of central Salford. Eight of the top ten areas contain boarding schools, whilst one includes halls of residence for the University of Sheffield.

Table 1: LSOAs with lowest median age, mid-2012

Rank LSOA Median Age
1 Salford 016E 18.0
2 Horsham 008E 18.1
3 Bracknell Forest 012D 18.2
4 Rutland 005D 18.6
5 West Berkshire 011C 18.8
6 Harrow 029D 18.9
7 West Dorset 001E 19.0
8 Rugby 009C 19.0
9 Mendip 012D 19.8
10 Sheffield 038C 19.9

Table source: Office for National Statistics

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The highest median age in mid-2012 was 71.1 in Eastbourne 012B. Seven of the top LSOAs with the highest median ages, as shown in table 2 below, are located in coastal areas of southern England which are known for their large populations of people of retirement age. The exceptions are South Lakeland 013D located next to Morecambe Bay in Cumbria; Wealden 018A which is a rural area located close to the South Downs National Park; and King’s Lynn and West Norfolk 017D which is located in the town of Downham Market.

Table 2: LSOAs with highest median age, mid-2012

Rank LSOA Median Age
1 Eastbourne 012B 71.1
2 Christchurch 003A 69.8
3 King's Lynn and West Norfolk 017D 69.4
4 Poole 018B 69.1
5 East Devon 012B 68.5
6 Christchurch 003B 68.4
7 East Devon 020B 67.7
8 Wealden 018A 67.1
9 South Lakeland 013D 67.0
10 East Devon 017A 66.7

Table source: Office for National Statistics

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Population Density

LSOAs are designed to have similar levels of population. Population density, that is the number of people living per square kilometre, can be used to highlight how different LSOAs are in terms of the geographic size of population settlements they include.

In mid-2012, the population density of England and Wales was 375 persons per square kilometre. Approximately 85% of LSOAs had a population density higher than that of England and Wales as a whole. Population density was less than 1,000 persons per square kilometre in approximately 23% of LSOAs and approximately 8% had a population density of 10,000 or more persons per square kilometre.

Table 3: LSOAs with highest population density, mid-2012

Rank LSOA Population Density (persons per sq. km)
1 Kensington and Chelsea 021C 67,800
2 Tower Hamlets 032D 65,300
3 Islington 011F 52,800
4 Westminster 024E 48,200
5 Westminster 022D 46,700
6 Islington 006F 40,300
7 Hammersmith and Fulham 023E 40,100
8 Tower Hamlets 025C 39,800
9 Westminster 014F 39,100
10 Tower Hamlets 028H 39,000

Table source: Office for National Statistics

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The ten LSOAs with the highest levels of population density are all in London. The LSOA with the highest population density in mid-2012 was Kensington and Chelsea 021C. This is an area where, approximately, 1,200 people live in 0.02 square kilometres, resulting in a density of 67,800 persons per square kilometre. The most densely population LSOA outside of London was Brighton and Hove 026B at 33,100 persons per square kilometre (ranked 26th overall).

Table 4: LSOAs with lowest population density, mid-2012

Rank LSOA Population Density (persons per sq. km)
1 Northumberland 019C 2.6
2 Northumberland 007D 4.0
3 Northumberland 003B 4.2
4 Northumberland 037E 4.6
5 Richmondshire 005E 4.8
6 Gwynedd 015D 4.9
7 Powys 014C 6.1
8 Northumberland 019D 6.3
9 Powys 020B 6.8
10 Powys 020C 6.8

Table source: Office for National Statistics

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Nine of the ten least densely populated LSOAs in mid-2012 are in either North East England or Wales, with the top four all being in Northumberland. The least densely populated LSOA in England and Wales is Northumberland 019C with a population density of approximately 2.6 persons per square kilometre in mid-2012. This LSOA includes approximately 670 square kilometres of the area surrounding Kielder Water and some central parts of the Northumberland National Park.  Eight of the top ten areas shown in table 4 are either wholly or partly contained within a National Park area.

Maps 1 and 2 below highlight the differences in population density in different regions of England. Map 1 shows the population density of LSOAs within London for mid-2012, while map 2 shows the same figures for the North East of England.

London has generally high population density with the area as a whole having approximately 5,280 persons per square kilometre. However, as shown by map 1, there are many areas where the population density is much higher, particularly in Inner London - with the exception of areas such as Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. By contrast the majority of the North East of England is sparsely populated (with less than 100 persons per square kilometre), although the higher population densities in the urban areas of Tyneside and Middlesborough are clearly visible. Smaller towns such as Berwick, Alnwick and Hexham can also be identified. Overall population density for the North-East of England is approximately 300 persons per square kilometre.

Map 1: Population density of LSOAs in London, mid-2012

Map 1 shows the population density of LSOAs within London for mid-2012

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Map 2: Population density of LSOAs in North-East England, mid-2012

Map 2 shows the population density of LSOAs within the North East of England for mid-2012

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Notes for Population Density

  1. Population density is calculated as the population estimate of each SOA divided by its land area in square kilometres. Land area is measured to the mean high water mark for coastal areas and excludes areas of inland water. This is the Eurostat recommended method for compiling population density figures. Land area is obtained from the Standard Area Measurements published on the ONS website.

Small Area Population Estimates for other UK Countries

Population estimates are produced for similar small areas in both Scotland and Northern Ireland, however they are not produced using the same methodology as for Super Output Areas in England and Wales.

National Records of Scotland (NRS) produce population estimates for Scottish Data Zones, which are slightly smaller areas than LSOAs designed to contain approximately 500 to 1,000 household residents. NRS use a cohort component based method to produce estimates for Data Zones, further information on this methodology and the latest estimates (for mid-2011 based on 2001 Census results) are available from their website. These mid-2011 estimates will be subject to scheduled revision following publication of the 2011 Census results for Scotland.

The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) publish population estimates for Super Output Areas in Northern Ireland. These are of similar size to English and Welsh LSOAs with populations of approximately 1,300 to 2,800 with a target size of 2,000. NISRA use a mixed methodology based on both cohort component and ratio change approaches. Further information and the latest estimates published for mid-2010 are available from the NISRA website. Estimates for mid-2011 and mid-2012 are currently planned for publication during winter 2013/2014.

A paper, Small Area Population Estimates across the UK which provides a broad description of the different methodologies used to produce small area population estimates in each constituent country of the UK, is also available on the NISRA website.

Further Publications in 2013

This list below shows the other small area population estimates products which are planned for publication in 2013. The majority of the dates given below are provisional. Final confirmed dates will be available on the UK National Statistics Publication Hub release calendar at least four weeks before publication.

  • Health geography population estimates, mid-2012 (including clinical commissioning groups and primary care organisations): 30 October 2013

  • Small area population estimates for wards and parliamentary constituencies, mid-2012: November/December 2013.

  • Super Output Area (SOA) population estimates, mid-2002 to mid-2010 revised: November/December 2013.

  • Small area population estimates for wards and parliamentary constituencies, mid-2002 to mid-2010 revised: November/December 2013.

Further research work on small area population is planned to be completed following the publication of the products listed above. This is likely to include:

  • Detailed assessment of the difference between 2011 Census SOA population estimates and the estimates for mid-2011 based on the 2001 Census.

  • Review of the methods used to produce small area population estimates in the light of the results of the 2011 Census.

Background notes

  1. National Statistics are produced to high professional standards set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics. They undergo regular quality assurance reviews to ensure that they meet customer needs. They are produced free from any political interference.

  2. An Overview of Population Statistics is available on the ONS website.

  3. Mid-2012 population estimates for Super Output Areas in England and Wales are available from the ONS website.

  4. Published tables include population estimates for middle layer Super Output Areas (MSOAs) and lower layer Super Output Areas (LSOAs) by single year of age and sex.

  5. A report describing the methodology used to create the SOA estimates is available on the ONS website.

  6. This is the first release of mid-2012 population estimates for Super Output Areas in England and Wales. No revisions of this dataset have been made.

  7. Mid-2012 population estimates for England and Wales and for local authorities are also available on the ONS website.

  8. Release Number: SAPE6BL1.

  9. Next publication:

    September/October 2014

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Statistical contacts

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Pete Large +44 (0)1329 444661 Population Estimates Unit pop.info@ons.gsi.gov.uk
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