Proportion of Britons describing themselves as white falls

A snapshot of modern Britain: Census shows fewer people in England and Wales describe themselves as white and under HALF are Christian for the first time EVER, while two-thirds of Londoners are from an ethnic minority: so how does YOUR area compare?

  • The number of people in England and Wales identifying as white has fallen by around 500,000 in a decade 
  • The ONS also revealed that two-thirds of Londoners said they were from an ethnic minority in 2021 census
  • And for the first time since the census began fewer than half the population said they were Christian
  • Census 2021: Fascinating charts and maps show how over-65s now outnumber under-15s for first time EVER

England and Wales are becoming less white and Christian, new official data reveals today. 

The number of people in England and Wales identifying their ethnic group as white has fallen by around 500,000 over a decade, the Office for National Statistics said.

Some 81.7 per cent of residents in England and Wales described themselves as white on the day of the 2021 census, down from 86 per cent a decade earlier.

You can see how the numbers stack up in your area in the interactive maps below.

The second most common ethnic group was ‘Asian, Asian British or Asian Welsh’ at 9.3 per cent, up from 7.5 per cent in 2011.

The ONS also revealed that two-thirds of Londoners now identify as being from an ethnic minority – from a group that is not ‘White British’ but which includes white people from other nationalities.

And for the first time since the census began almost 200 years ago fewer than half the population said they were Christian. More than a third now say they have no religion at all.

But the ONS also revealed that while the ethnic make-up of England and Wales is changing, more than 90 per cent said they feel British. 

The ONS also revealed that while the ethnic make-up of England and Wales is changing, more than 90 per cent said they feel British.

Godless Britain: Christians now make up less than half of E&W population as a third say they follow no religion  

Some 46.2 per cent of the population of England and Wales described themselves as Christian on the day of the 2021 census, down from 59.3 per cent a decade earlier, the ONS said.

This is the first time the proportion has dropped below half.

The percentage of people saying they had no religion jumped from around a quarter in 2011 (25.2 per cent) to over a third in 2021 (37.2 per cent).

There were increases in the proportion of people describing themselves as Muslim (up from 4.9 per cent to 6.5 per cent) and as Hindu (from 1.5 per cent to 1.7 per cent).

London remains the most religiously diverse region of England, with just over a quarter (25.3 per cent) of people on the day of the 2021 census reporting a religion other than Christian.

South-west England is the least religiously diverse region, with 3.2 per cent selecting a religion other than Christian.

The religion question was voluntary on the 2021 census but was answered by 94.0 per cent of the overall population of England and Wales, up from 92.9 per cent in 2011, the ONS added.

Andrew Copson, chief executive of the charity group Humanists UK, said the 2021 census results ‘confirm that the biggest demographic change in England and Wales of the last 10 years has been the dramatic growth of the non-religious’, meaning ‘the UK is almost certainly one of the least religious countries on Earth’. 

The census takes place across the UK every 10 years and provides the most accurate estimate of all the people and households in the country.

More data will be published in stages over the next two years.

Census deputy director Jon Wroth-Smith said: ‘Today’s data highlights the increasingly multi-cultural society we live in. 

‘The percentage of people identifying their ethnic group as ”White: English, Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish or British”, continues to decrease. Whilst this remains the most common response to the ethnic group question, the number of people identifying with another ethnic group continues to increase.

‘However, the picture varies depending on where you live. London remains the most ethnically diverse region of England, where just under two-thirds identify with an ethnic minority group, whereas under 1 in 10 identify this way in the North East.

‘But despite the ethnically diverse nature of society, 9 in 10 people across England and Wales still identify with a UK national identity, with nearly 8 in 10 doing so in London.’

The ONS said large ethnicity changes were seen in people identifying as ‘White: Other White’, which stood at 3.7 million (6.2 per cent) in 2021, up from 2.5 million (4.4 per cent) in 2011.

And numbers of people identifying their ethnic group as ‘Other ethnic group: Any other ethnic group’ rose to 924,000 (1.6 per cent), up from 333,000 (0.6 per cent) in 2011.

Around one in 10 households (2.5 million) contained members from at least two different ethnic groups in 2021.

This is an increase from 8.7 per cent in 2011, the ONS said.

Some 46.2 per cent of the population of England and Wales described themselves as Christian on the day of the 2021 census, down from 59.3 per cent a decade earlier, the ONS said.

This is the first time the proportion has dropped below a half.

The percentage of people saying they had no religion jumped from around a quarter in 2011 (25.2 per cent) to over a third in 2021 (37.2 per cent).

There were increases in the proportion of people describing themselves as Muslim (up from 4.9 per cent to 6.5 per cent) and as Hindu (from 1.5 per cent to 1.7 per cent).

London remains the most religiously diverse region of England, with just over a quarter (25.3 per cent) of people on the day of the 2021 census reporting a religion other than Christian.

The proportion of Cornish people who say they are not British has risen by more than 60 per cent in a decade.

The 2021 census showed that 14 per cent (80,000) of the population selected a ‘Cornish’ only identity. This is up from 9.9 per cent, or 53,000 people, in 2011.

Just 1.6 per cent (9,000) of the population selected ‘Cornish’ in combination with a ‘British’ identity, an increase from 1 per cent (5,000), in 2011.

A further   (100,000) selected either the ‘Cornish’ only identity or chose ‘Cornish’ in combination with ‘British’ (an increase from 0.1%, or 66,000, in 2011) 

 

South-west England is the least religiously diverse region, with 3.2 per cent selecting a religion other than Christian.

The religion question was voluntary on the 2021 census but was answered by 94.0 per cent of the overall population of England and Wales, up from 92.9 per cent in 2011, the ONS added.

The Archbishop of York said the country had ‘left behind the era when many people almost automatically identified as Christian’ after Census data showed the proportion of the population of England and Wales describing themselves as such had fallen below a half for the first time.

The Most Reverend Stephen Cottrell said: ‘The Christian church exists to share the good news of Jesus Christ, serve our neighbour and bring hope to a troubled world. That’s what we’ve done for 2,000 years, in times of war and peace; hardship and plenty; revival and decline and it’s what we must do now more than ever.

‘It’s not a great surprise that the Census shows fewer people in this country identifying as Christian than in the past, but it still throws down a challenge to us not only to trust that God will build his kingdom on Earth but also to play our part in making Christ known.

‘We have left behind the era when many people almost automatically identified as Christian but other surveys consistently show how the same people still seek spiritual truth and wisdom and a set of values to live by.

‘This winter – perhaps more so than for a long time – people right across the country, some in desperate need, will be turning to their local church, not only for spiritual hope but practical help. We will be there for them, in many cases, providing food and warmth. And at Christmas millions of people will still come to our services.

‘At the same time, we will be looking beyond our immediate surroundings, remembering we are part of a global faith, the largest movement on Earth and its greatest hope for a peaceful, sustainable future.’

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