1) The Welsh in England like to be near Wales
On Census day, 21 March 2021, there were 478,700 Welsh-born people in England, making up 0.8% of the population, with some in every lower-tier local authority area. But the highest proportions were found in the Forest of Dean district of Gloucestershire (6.4%), Shropshire (5.8%), Herefordshire (5.3%) and Cheshire West (4.1%) – which are all also the four lower-tier local authority areas of England that border Wales. The pattern is clear from the map, although this uses upper-tier local authority areas, with 2.8% of the population of Gloucestershire born in Wales.
The four Greater Bristol unitary authorities once known as Avon, all of which had more than 2% of their populations born in Wales, are all a short journey from Wales courtesy of two motorway bridges and a rail tunnel. From parts of North Somerset (2.6% Welsh-born) and South Gloucestershire (2.4%) you can gaze at the green, green grass of home across the water. There is a line of areas at least 1% Welsh-born running east along the M4 motorway and Great Western Railway, along with other convenient places such as Liverpool, Warrington and the Wirral. In summary, many Welsh-born people not actually in Wales seem to like to be able to get back quickly.
2) The English in Wales are all over the place
Census day saw about a third more English-born people in Wales (659,000) than Welsh-born people in England, which means they made up 21.2% of the population. The Welsh council area with the highest proportion of English-born people also has the longest border with England, Powys (46.9%), followed by Flintshire (44.3%) which has Cheshire West next door. But these are followed by non-borderland areas Conwy (37.9%), Ceredigion (37.3%) and Denbighshire (35.2%). Pembrokeshire, the council area furthest from England, is 27.5% English-born. The only parts of Wales that aren’t at least one-fifth English-born are the relatively urban areas of southern Wales from Swansea to Newport.
3) Two-fifths of Londoners were born abroad…
Census 2021 found that 10 million people (16.8%) in England and Wales were born outside the UK, but the proportions vary enormously by area. In four local authority areas – Redcar and Cleveland in north-east England, Copeland in Cumbria, Staffordshire Moorlands and Caerphilly in south Wales – less than 3% of people were foreign-born. In 159 of the 331 lower-tier areas less than 10% were born overseas. But across London the figure is 40.6% and in six London boroughs – Brent, Ealing, Harrow, Kensington and Chelsea, Newham and Westminster – more than half of the population was born outside the UK.
A lot of nationalities are well-represented. Kensington and Chelsea has the highest concentrations of those born in three of western European countries, with 3.8% Italian-born, 3.7% French and 2.1% Spanish, with 24.1% of the royal borough’s population born in Europe outside the UK. The borough was also second only to West Suffolk (see number 6) for those born in the United States.
4) …but Leicester has the highest proportion of people born in one specific foreign country
There were 59,800 Indian-born people in Leicester on Census day, 16.2% of the city’s population and the largest proportion of people born in one other country in one local authority area. In total 41.1% of people in Leicester were born overseas, with the next-biggest groups born in Poland (2.4%) and Kenya (1.7%).
Just five other areas of England and Wales had people born in one other country making up more than a tenth of the population. For four of them that country was India: the London boroughs of Brent (10.4%), Harrow (10.1%) and Hounslow (13.2%), along with Slough (10.8%). 14% of those in Tower Hamlets were born in Bangladesh.
5) You’re never far from a Pole
The 743,000 Polish-born people in England and Wales on Census day make up 1.2% of the population. There are concentrations of Poles in cities – including the London borough of Ealing (5.1%) and Southampton (4.7%) – large towns, with Slough having the highest proportion of Polish-born people of 5.6%, and rural areas including the Boston borough of Lincolnshire (5.4%). There are 44 lower-tier local authority areas where those born in Poland make up at least 2% of the population, spread across much of England and Wales including Hull (3.4%), Cheltenham (2.1%) and Wrexham (2.6%).
6) The biggest concentration of Americans is in… West Suffolk
Four areas of London were more than 2% American-born on Census day, while outside the capital the university cities of Cambridge (2.2%) and Oxford (1.9%) both have significant numbers. But the area of England and Wales with both the highest proportion (6.2%) and highest number (11,100) of people born in the USA was West Suffolk.
The ONS’s TS004 dataset, which uses continents of birth rather than countries and is available for much-smaller middle-layer super output areas (MSOAs), shows that 39% of people in the West Suffolk 001 MSOA gave their place of birth as the Americas and the Caribbean. Almost certainly, the reason for this becomes clear from the House of Commons library’s name for West Suffolk 001: Lakenheath.
RAF Lakenheath hosts the US Air Force’s 48th fighter wing with around 5,500 active-duty American military members as well as their families and other US civilians. It’s an airbase so large you can see it from the lower-tier local authority census data.
On 2 November 2022, the Office for National Statistics published data from Census 2021 on demography and migration including country of birth. The detailed version of this data, coded TS012, had 59 possible responses covering many individual countries, some broader areas such as North Africa and the four UK nations England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The most geographically granular version of the data, ‘Country of birth (detailed) (Lower Tier Local Authorities): TS012’ covers the 331 lower-tier local authority areas in England and Wales, which means districts and boroughs in county council areas and unitary authorities elsewhere.
The ONS data doesn’t include percentages, but it does provide numbers from which they can be worked out. For each area I divided the number of people in each category by the total number of people in that area, the latter based on adding up all the people in each category for that area rather than using a different spreadsheet. Although I used the exact numbers from the spreadsheet I have rounded them to the nearest hundred above, recognising that even an ONS Census is not completely accurate.
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