Last year the Office for National Statistics published the first results from Census 2021. Taken every decade, the census collects important information about the characteristics and lives of the people who live in England and Wales. Census 2021 asked a voluntary question on gender identity for the first time, to provide information on this topic for which limited other sources are available.

The census findings on gender identity are broadly consistent with other sources including previous Government Equalities Office estimates and other comparable countries’ data. The estimated number of transgender people is slightly lower in the census than in a separate 2021 NHS survey.

The question on gender identity was tested thoroughly and the whole census questionnaire was available translated into nearly 50 languages to ensure it could be properly understood. When other formulations of the gender identity question were tested – for example simply asking respondents whether they are transgender – the question was less well understood than the final formulation that was used in Census 2021.

We talked to a number of groups and engaged in widescale testing, before the questionnaire was finalised for Census 2021. This included running a census rehearsal, in which over 100,000 households took part, in diverse areas around England and Wales including areas with high numbers of second language English speakers.

As with every census topic, we quality assured the census results before we published them. This is the first time that the census has asked this question, and as a relatively small proportion of respondents reported having a gender identity different to their sex at birth, analysing the nature and quality of the responses to this question is more challenging than with most other census variables.

We are undertaking more work to understand if individual responses were affected by different interpretations of the question. We intend to publish more research on this topic in the next two months.