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Statistical bulletin: Super Output Area Mid-Year Population Estimates, Mid-2010 - (SUPERSEDED) This product is designated as National Statistics

Released: 28 September 2011 Download PDF

Key Points

  • Mean population of LSOAs in England and Wales was 1,600 in mid-2010, an increase of 100 since mid-2001.
  • Mean population of MSOAs in England and Wales was 7,700 in mid-2010, an increase of 400 since mid-2001.
  • Rural LSOAs containing major residential developments had some of the greatest increases in population in the year to mid-2010.
  • The greatest percentage increases in population over the nine year period between mid-2001 and mid-2010 occurred in urban areas.

Annual Mid-year Population Estimates for lower and middle layer Super Output Areas, 2010

This bulletin presents the 2010 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. It also describes recent changes, the impact of these changes on local areas within England and Wales and population age distributions within these areas.

Introduction

Mid-year population estimates for 2010 for England and Wales, regions within England and local authorities within England and Wales were published on 30 June 2011. The estimates refer to the usually resident population as at 30 June of the reference year and are published annually. In mid-2010 the population of England and Wales was 55,240,000, an increase of 0.8 per cent on mid-2009 and 5.5 per cent on mid-2001.

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 estimates are based on the 2001 Census, rolled forward each year using a ratio change methodology which uses change in the population recorded in administrative sources as an indicator of change in the true population. They are constrained to be consistent with population estimates for higher levels of geography including local authorities, regions and the national total for England and Wales.

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 Summary Quality Report for Small Area Population Estimates (234.9 Kb Pdf) .

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 2001 Census Output Areas, are of a consistent size and have fixed boundaries. 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.

Two levels of SOAs are available in England and Wales:

  • Lower layer (LSOAs) designed to have a minimum population of 1,000 and a mean population of 1,500 in 2001. There are 34,378 LSOAs in England and Wales

  • Middle layer (MSOAs) designed to have a minimum population of 5,000 and a mean population of 7,200 in 2001. There are 7,194 MSOAs in England and Wales. MSOAs are aggregations of LSOAs

Further information on SOAs, including plans to revise boundaries following the 2011 Census results.

Population Change

The key components of population change are births, deaths and net migration. Some population changes are localised within individual small areas, for example internal migration into a new housing development. Other population change is more widespread, occurring across a number of adjacent areas, for example international migration is an important component of population change across much of London.

In the year to mid-2010, the mean population of lower layer Super Output Areas (LSOAs) in England and Wales was 1,600, an increase of 100 since mid-2001. The range in population size for LSOAs is wider in mid-2010 than it was in mid-2001. In mid-2010 the smallest LSOA had a population of 300 and the largest, 14,700. This compares to 900 and 6,600 in mid-2001.

The mean population of middle layer Super Output Areas (MSOAs) was 7,700 in mid-2010, an increase of 400 since mid-2001. The range in population size for MSOAs is also wider in mid-2010 than it was in mid-2001. Excluding the Isles of Scilly, in mid-2010 the smallest MSOA had a population of 3,000 and the largest, 24,300. This compares to 4,600 and 15,500 in mid-2001.

Change in year to mid-2010

The percentage change in mean population of both LSOAs and MSOAs was 0.8 per cent between mid-2009 and mid-2010 and 5.5 per cent between mid-2001 and mid-2010. This reflects the percentage increase in the population of England and Wales as a whole over the same period.

In the year to mid-2010 the majority of LSOAs (96 per cent) had population change of less than 5 per cent. However, 1,341 LSOAs had a population increase of 5 per cent or more, including 205 LSOAs which had a population increase of between 10 and 20 per cent and 19 which increased by more than 20 per cent.

Table 1: LSOAs with greatest percentage increase in population in the year to mid-2010

    Population Percentage Change
Rank LSOA Mid-2009 Mid-2010 Mid-09 to Mid-10
1 Huntingdonshire 018A 1,500 2,100 40.9
2 North Norfolk 012C 1,700 2,300 35.7
3 Sheffield 031A 4,500 6,100 35.1
4 Bedford 019C 1,000 1,300 28.8
5 Sedgemoor 014B 1,900 2,400 28.8
6 Aylesbury Vale 008E 2,100 2,700 27.8
7 Barking and Dagenham 015C 1,900 2,300 24.4
8 Hackney 005C 2,100 2,600 24.4
9 Tower Hamlets 029B 2,600 3,300 24.2
10 Westminster 019B 1,900 2,400 23.6

Table source: Office for National Statistics

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Four of the LSOAs with the greatest percentage increase in population between mid-2009 and mid-2010 are rural areas where major new residential developments have been constructed. These are Huntingdonshire 018A, Bedford 019C, Sedgemoor 014B and Aylesbury Vale 008E. The population of Huntingdonshire 018A was estimated to have increased by 41 per cent in the year to mid-2010 with the population of the other three areas all increasing by over 27 per cent.

Urban redevelopment is another driver of small area population increase. The population of Sheffield 031A (covering part of Sheffield city centre) increased by 35 per cent in the year to mid-2010, and four London areas had a 24 per cent increase. The 36 per cent population increase in North Norfolk 012C is due to the opening of a new prison, HMP Bure, on the former site of RAF Coltishall.

In total, 125 LSOAs had a population decrease of 5 per cent or more, including 29 LSOAs which had a population decrease of between 10 and 20 per cent and eight which decreased by more than 20 per cent.

Table 2: LSOAs with greatest percentage decrease in population in the year to mid-2010

    Population Percentage Change
Rank LSOA Mid-2009 Mid-2010 Mid-09 to Mid-10
1 Southwark 009E 900 500 -46.9
2 Greenwich 024B 600 400 -35.7
3 Greenwich 024C 700 400 -34.6
4 Liverpool 010D 400 300 -27.3
5 Kingston upon Hull 031C 1,000 700 -25.4
6 Huntingdonshire 010A 1,700 1,300 -25.2
7 Southwark 012C 1,300 1,000 -20.8
8 Liverpool 018D 600 500 -20.7
9 Greenwich 024A 1,100 900 -19.3
10 Brent 027C 800 600 -19.2

Table source: Office for National Statistics

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Six of the ten areas with the greatest percentage decreases in population between mid-2009 and mid-2010 were located in London, with a further three being inner-city areas in Liverpool and Kingston upon Hull. Inner city population decline is often observed in areas with vacant housing or areas where urban redevelopment schemes have resulted in the large scale demolition of housing that has not yet been replaced. For example, population decline has occurred in Southwark 009E due to demolition required for the regeneration of the Elephant and Castle area.

Change between mid-2001 and mid-2010

Over the nine year period from mid-2001 to mid-2010, the population has increased by at least 100 per cent in 139 LSOAs across England and Wales. The population of Swindon 002A (a suburban area in North Swindon) in mid-2010 is nearly 10 times the estimated population in mid-2001. This highlights the cumulative effect of new development on population growth over a longer period of time. The majority of the areas with the greatest percentage population increases contain new communities that have either been built since the 2001 Census or have grown significantly over this nine year period. Development in inner city areas, such as Leeds 084A, Sheffield 031A and Nottingham 026C, is also likely to have caused large scale population increases during the decade.

Table 3: LSOAs with greatest percentage increase in population between mid-2001 and mid-2010

    Population Percentage Change
Rank LSOA Mid-2001 Mid-2010 Mid-01 to Mid-10
1 Swindon 002A 1500 14700 894.5
2 Leeds 084A 1700 11100 548.4
3 South Cambridgeshire 008A 1300 7100 437.5
4 Corby 007F 1300 6800 410.4
5 Peterborough 020C 2000 10100 404.3
6 Sheffield 031A 1300 6100 366.8
7 Stockton-on-Tees 023B 1600 7000 336.7
8 North Somerset 019C 1500 6500 333.3
9 Nottingham 026C 1200 5000 328.7
10 Milton Keynes 017B 1500 6300 324.8

Table source: Office for National Statistics

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The greatest percentage decrease in population between mid-2001 and mid-2010 was 79 per cent in Liverpool 010D, an LSOA in the Norris Green area of the city. There were 13 LSOAs where the population decreased by over 50 per cent over this period. All of these are inner city areas, including five areas within London, four in Liverpool and two in Sunderland.

Table 4: LSOAs with greatest percentage decrease in population between mid-2001 and mid-2010

    Population Percentage Change
Rank LSOA Mid-2001 Mid-2010 Mid-01 to Mid-10
1 Liverpool 010D 1,400 300 -79.2
2 Greenwich 024B 1,500 400 -75.1
3 Greenwich 024C 1,600 400 -72.3
4 Sunderland 027E 1,700 500 -71.7
5 Liverpool 018D 1,500 500 -68.3
6 Sheffield 035B 1,600 500 -67.5
7 Southwark 009E 1,500 500 -66.5
8 Sunderland 012D 1,400 500 -61.1
9 Brent 027C 1,600 600 -59.3
10 Liverpool 018C 1,500 600 -57.5

Table source: Office for National Statistics

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Population Density within England and Wales

LSOAs are designed to have similar levels of population. Population density can be used to highlight how different LSOAs are in terms of their geographic features and the size of population settlements they include.

In mid-2010, approximately 70 per cent of LSOAs had a population density of less than 5,000 persons per square kilometre and just over 7 per cent had a population density of 10,000 or more persons per square kilometre. This distribution has changed very little since mid-2001.

Table 5: LSOA population density, mid-2010

Population Density (persons per sq. km) Count of LSOAs Percentage of LSOAs
0 - 4,999 24,003 69.8
5,000 - 9,999 7,912 23.0
10,000 - 14,999 1,640 4.8
15,000 - 19,999 523 1.5
20,000 - 24,999 181 0.5
25,000 - 29,999 70 0.2
30,000 - 34,999 30 0.1
35,000 - 39,999 10 0.0
40,000 - 44,999 3 0.0
45,000 + 6 0.0

Table source: Office for National Statistics

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LSOAs within London account for the majority of the areas with the highest levels of population density. The LSOA with the highest population density in mid-2010 was Kensington and Chelsea 021C (an area of approximately 0.02 square kilometres) with approximately 80,000 persons per square kilometre. This LSOA was also the most densely populated area of England and Wales in mid-2001 with approximately 86,000 persons per square kilometre.

The ten LSOAs, outside of London, with the highest population density in mid-2010 are shown in Table 6, along with their rank in the overall list when London is included.

Table 6: Non-London LSOAs with highest population density, mid-2010

Rank LSOA Population Density (persons per sq. km) 
40 Brighton and Hove 026B 30,400
47 Leicester 018B 30,100
51 Leeds 054A 29,900
59 Birmingham 077C 28,800
65 Brighton and Hove 029C 28,100
74 Bradford 042B 27,500
99 Nottingham 028C 26,000
102 Leicester 022E 25,800
111 Newcastle upon Tyne 024A 25,400
130 Leeds 054D 24,600

Table source: Office for National Statistics

Table notes:

  1. Rank given is overall rank when London is included

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The LSOA with the highest population density, outside of London, in mid-2010 was Brighton and Hove 026B (an area of approximately 0.05 square kilometres) with approximately 30,400 persons per square kilometre. Brighton and Hove 026B (and neighbouring 029C) is in the Brunswick area of Hove where a large proportion of the housing consists of Regency era townhouses converted to flats.

Table 7: LSOAs with lowest population density, mid-2010

Rank LSOA Population Density (persons per sq. km)
1 Tynedale 001C 2.5
2 Alnwick 004D 3.8
3 Berwick-upon-Tweed 003B 4.1
4 Gwynedd 015D 4.7
5 Richmondshire 005E 5.1
6 Tynedale 002E 5.1
7 Tynedale 001D 6.3
8 Powys 014C 6.5
9 Powys 016D 6.7
10 Powys 004B 7.1

Table source: Office for National Statistics

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Nine of the top ten least densely populated LSOAs in mid-2010 are in either North East England or Wales. The least densely populated LSOA in England and Wales is Tynedale 001C with a population density of approximately 2.5 persons per square kilometre in mid-2010. This LSOA includes approximately 700 square kilometres of the area surrounding Kielder Water in Northumberland and some central parts of the Northumberland National Park. 

LSOA population by age

The median age of the population of England and Wales in mid-2010 was 39.6, up by 1.7 years since mid-2001.

The median age for LSOAs within England and Wales varies widely between different areas. In mid-2010 the lowest median age in an LSOA was 17.5 in Vale of White Horse 003C, an area in Oxfordshire containing a large boarding school. The highest median age in mid-2010 was 73.2 in Poole 018B, an area with a large population who are of retirement age.  This compares to a range of 18.0 to 72.5 in mid-2001.

Figure 1: Distribution of LSOAs by median age, mid-2010

Bar chart showing showing the distribution of LSOAs by median age
Source: Office for National Statistics

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In total, 3,211 LSOAs (9.3 per cent) had an increase of more than 5 years in their median age between mid-2001 and mid-2010, including 14 LSOAs where the increase was more than 10 years. Likely reasons for large increases in median age at small area level include:

  • Population growth in older age groups

  • General population decline causing a change in the age structure of an area

  • Closure of institutions with large populations of young people, for example student halls of residence

  • There were 498 LSOAs (1.4 per cent) which had a decrease of more than 5 years in their median age between mid-2001 and mid-2010, including 44 LSOAs  where the decrease was more than 10 years. Likely reasons for large decreases in median age include:

  • Population growth in younger age groups, for example increasing numbers of young families with children

  • Opening of new university campuses or halls of residence resulting in large increases in the population in student age groups (18-22)

  • Population growth resulting from large scale residential development causing a change in the age structure of an area

Small Area Population Estimates for other UK Countries

Population estimates are produced for similar 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 method to produce estimates for Data Zones.

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.

Product Development

Super Output Area (SOA) estimates were developed and first published by ONS in 2006 and have since been published annually as experimental statistics. This release of mid-2010 estimates marks the first time these estimates are being published as National Statistics following assessment by the UK Statistics Authority in April 2011. The National Statistics status of these estimates is subject to requirements set out in the assessment report being met by December 2011.

Assessment Report 103, which covers the SOA estimates.

OA population estimates are produced using the best methods and data sources currently available. However, assessing the accuracy of the SOA estimates during the intercensal period has been difficult due to a lack of comparable small area population data. The 2011 Census provides an opportunity to benchmark the SOA estimates against census data and to analyse the level of accuracy that has been achieved. A report setting out plans and a timetable for this analysis is due to be published by December 2011.

Mid-year population estimates for 2011 will be based on 2011 Census data. In order to maintain a consistent time series, mid-2002 to mid-2010 population estimates for all levels of geography, including Super Output Areas, will be revised following the publication of mid-2011 estimates.

Improvements to migration and population statistics

In May 2010 a package of improvements for mid-year population estimates for England and Wales was introduced as part of a cross-government programme to improve migration statistics. These improvements led to revisions to the mid-2002 to mid-2008 local authority population estimates for England and Wales. The improved methods have also been used to calculate mid-2009 and mid-2010 population estimates.

SOA population estimates for mid-2002 to mid-2008 were also revised to maintain consistency with local authority estimates. A list of past revisions made to SOA population estimates is included in this methodology document.

Further improvements to the population estimates methodology have been developed. More information on these improvements is expected to be published in November 2011. These have been made as the result of user feedback and improved access to, and understanding of, a range of administrative sources.

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. Mid-2010 population estimates for Super Output Areas in England and Wales.

  3. Published tables include population estimates for middle layer Super Output areas (MSOAs) by quinary age/sex groups and for lower layer Super Output Areas (LSOAs) by broad age/sex groups. The differing level of age detail reflects the greater uncertainty over accuracy at finer levels of geography.
  4. A report describing the methodology used to create the SOA estimates.

  5. This is the first release of mid-2010 population estimates for Super Output Areas in England and Wales. No revisions of this dataset have been made.

  6. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available from the Media Relations Office. Also available is a list of the names of those given pre-publication access to the contents of this release.

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  7. Next Publication: Winter 2012/Spring 2013

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  8. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available by visiting www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/assessment/code-of-practice/index.html or from the Media Relations Office email: media.relations@ons.gsi.gov.uk

    These National Statistics are produced to high professional standards and released according to the arrangements approved by the UK Statistics Authority.

Statistical contacts

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