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Centre for Earth and Environmental Science Research

Mapping the British Census of Population, 1971 to 1981

Executive Summary
ResearchersProf. N. S. Walford (Principal Investigator): CEESR
Mr Stuart Carter: Southwark Borough Council, 9th floor Downstream Building 1 London Bridge London. SE1 9AJ
Funding Body/SourceESRC
DurationJune 2001-Aug 2005
Project SummaryThis project filled an important gap in the digital data record for small area census geography by creating digital boundary data files for the enumeration districts used in the 1981 Population Census and for the census tracts that were defined by the census authorities as the smallest comparable areas between these enumerations.

British Population Censuses are characterised by changing geographies as the small areas used for collecting the data and publishing resultsae re-defined for each enumeration. A proportion of boundaries remain the same, but the majority are altered. Some 14 per cent of the 1981 enumeration districts were the same throughout the period 1971 to 1991, and just over 30 per cent of the 1981 areas were the same in 1991, but not in 1971.Figure 1 illustrates the extent of the probelm in respect of England and Wales.

Figure 1: Consistent Enumeration Disticts between the 1971, 1981 and 1991, and the 1981 and 1991 Population Censuses (England and Wales).

The project employed microfilm scanning technology (see Figure 2) to capture raster images and spatial data processing techiques in GIS to produce vectors representing the boundary lines. The digital boundary data files have been lodged with the national census data service provider, UKBorders, and offer researchers registered to access census resources the opportunity to undertake mapping for areas related to the the Population Censuses of 1971 and 1981 on a consistent basis across Great Britain.

Figure 2:Microfilm scanner.


2005 Walford, N. S. Connecting historical and contemporary small area geography in Britain: the creation of digital boundary data for 1971 and 1981 census units, International Journal of Geographical Information Science, 19(7): 749-767.

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