Posted on: 21 December 2022

In this latest round of census data, data regarding ethnic group, national identity, language and religion has been released.

At Polimapper, we’ve taken a deep dive into the data to see what the 2021 census has uncovered about our society.

National Identity

The question of national identity was only introduced in the 2011 census. The population was asked which of the following they identified with: One or more UK identity only, UK identity and non-UK identity, or Non-UK identity only.

Overall in England and Wales, 90.3% of the population identified with at least one UK national identity (English, Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish, British and Cornish). This is 1.7% lower than in 2011.

10% of the population identified as ‘Non-UK identity’. The most common non-UK identities in England and Wales are Polish (593,000), Romanian (477,000), Indian (380,000), Irish (300,000) and Italian (287,000).

The local authorities with the highest percentage of the population identifying as ‘One or more UK identity’ were Redcar and Cleveland, Copeland, South Staffordshire and Caerphilly, all with over 97%.

Nine out of the ten local authorities with the highest percentage of ‘Non-UK identity’ residents were in London, but Birmingham had the highest overall number of people identifying as ‘Non-UK’. 


Whilst being optional, over 94% of respondents chose to answer the question on religion. 

In the history of the census, 2021 was the first year where less than half of the population described themselves as Christian. 27.5 million people identified as Christian, compared to 33.3 million 10 years ago.

‘No religion’, the second most common response, increased by 12% from 14.1 million people in 2011 to 22.2 million this year.

Wales saw the greatest decrease in people responding as ‘Christian’, with 46.5% reporting as ‘No religion’.

Areas in the north of England, such as Knowsley, Ribble Valley, and Coperland, are less religiously diverse, with less than 1.4% of the local population reporting a religious identity other than Christian. London on the other hand, was the most religious diverse, with over a quarter of all usual residents reporting a religion other than ‘Christian’. 

For the other religions in England and Wales, there were increases in the number of people who described themselves as ‘Muslim’ and ‘Hindu’, increasing to 6.5% and 1.7% respectively. 


In England and Wales, 91.1% of usual residents aged three years and over (52.6 million out of 57.7 million) had English (English or Welsh in Wales) as a main language. This is down from 92.3% ten years ago.

7.1% of the overall population spoke English either ‘well’ or ‘very well’, but did not speak it as their main language. 880,000 reported that they could not speak English well, and 161,000 could not speak English at all. 

The most common main languages other than English spoken in England and Wales were:

  1. Polish
  2. Romanian
  3. Panjabi
  4. Urdu
  5. Portuguese
  6. Spanish
  7. Arabic
  8. Bengali
  9. Gujarati
  10. Italian

Romanian and Italian are the only ones in the top ten which did not feature in this list ten years ago. Polish was the most common main language in both the 2011 and 2021 census, with Boston, Slough and Ealing reporting the highest percentage of Polish main language speakers. 

Newham, Brent, Ealing, Harrow and Leicester were the most linguistically diverse, with less than 70% of the population citing English as their main language. On the other hand, in the Staffordshire Moorlands, the Isle of Anglesey, Derbyshire and Copeland, over 99% of the population speak English as their first language. 

Ethnic Group

In the 2021 census, 81.7% of the population of England and Wales identified their ethnic group within the high-level ‘White’ category. Within this category, 44.4 million identified their ethnic group as “English, Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish or British’. 

‘Asian, Asian British or Asian Welsh’ was the second most common high-level ethnic group. This ethnic group saw a 1.8% increase from the 2011 census.

London was the most ethnically diverse region in England and Wales, with Newham, Brent, Harrow, Tower Hamlets, Redbridge and Ealing reporting less than 25% ‘White: English, Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish or British’.

Of the top 10 least ethnically diverse local authorities in England and Wales, two were in Wales (Isle of Anglesey and Caerphilly), one in Devon (Torridge) and the remaining seven all in the north of England.