ONS director talks Jedi, war and football in census Q&A on Reddit

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) celebrated World Statistics Day by putting on a Census 2021 Q&A on Reddit.

Using the website’s renowned ‘Ask Me Anything’ format, ONS director of population and public policy operations Pete Benton offered the public the chance to ask questions about the upcoming census.

These are some of the most popular questions and answers from the online event.

Q: “What are some of the most interesting trends found in the census? Is there anything that has come to light that is a great bit of trivia, or a fun fact?”

A: “To answer this question you have to take the long view… You can see that in 1911 the age structure of the population was very uniform with the number of people in each age group gradually reducing as people got older. In 1921 you can see the million men disappear after the First World War, the birth rate plummeted during the war and there was a baby boom at the end. This effect ripples through the population in later years and is repeated after the Second World War. You can see the impact right the way through to 2011. What a rich picture of a nation – very poignant.”

Q: “What is the one question you would love to ask but you know will never get approved to go onto the census?”

A: “I would probably choose to ask which football team people support. The results would be fascinating but more to the point for me in my role running the census it would make it even more interesting for people taking part.”

Q: “I’m looking forward to seeing how many Jedis we currently have in England and Wales.”

A: “The numbers speak for themselves I’m afraid. The number of Jedi in 2001 was 390,127, and in 2011 it had dropped to 176,632. Let’s hope the rebellion can do something about that.”

Daisy Ridley (left) and Mark Hamill attending the european premiere of Star Wars: The Last Jedi held at The Royal Albert Hall, London
Daisy Ridley (left) and Mark Hamill attending the European premiere of Star Wars: The Last Jedi held at The Royal Albert Hall, London (Matt Crossick/PA)

Q: “What new things have been added this year and has anything been removed?”

A: “We have added questions on gender identity, sexual orientation and armed forces veterans and removed the question on the number of rooms in the dwelling because we can get that from the land registry and link it in.”

Q: “I’ve never filled one in before! What do I need to know, do, and when is it?”

A: “The main thing that you need to know is that it is easy, quick and confidential. A letter will be sent to your address in March with a unique online access code and you have to fill it in online according to who lives there on March 21, 2021. If people need a paper questionnaire they can still ask for one but we are aiming to get at least 70% of responses online with the remainder via telephone or paper.”

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