CENSUS; Population of Preston continues to grow

The first results of the 2021 census are in – and they show Preston has seen its population swell over the last decade.

The census takes place every 10 years, with every household in the UK required to take part.

The latest snapshot of England and Wales was captured on March 21 2021.

Now the first results have been released – and there’s been a rise in the number of people living in Preston.

On census day, 147,900 people were living in the area – up 5% from 140,202 in 2011, when the last census was carried out.

This also means the population density has grown to 1,039 usual residents per square kilometre, up from 985 in 2011.

The census is crucial for the UK’s statisticians to understand how our population is changing, and plays a vital role in how our public services and government operate.

It shows the balance of men and women in the area has changed – Preston’s population is now 49.9% male and 50.1% female, meaning there is now a higher proportion of women in the area than 10 years ago.

In 2011, people living in Preston were 50.1% male and 49.9% female.

It also shows the area is aging – a decade ago the population was made up of 12.3% under-10s and 13.7% over-65s, but this had changed to 12.2% and 14.7% respectively by 2021.

Across England and Wales, the total population grew 6.3% over the past decade, from 56,075,912 in 2011 to 59,597,300 last year.

This included a 5.2% increase in the North West, where the population rose to 7,417,300 from 7,052,177 in 2011.

There were 24.8 million households in England and Wales on census day 2021, up from 23.4 million in 2011, with an average of 2.4 people in each household – the same as in 2011.

Historic populations of Preston:

1981: 124,414

1991: 126,082

2001: 129,633

2011: 140,202

2021: 147,900

Historic populations of the North West:

1981: 6,834,647

1991: 6,726,860

2001: 6,729,764

2011: 7,052,177

2021: 7,417,300


Preston has an ageing population, new Census figures outline, as the proportion of over-65s calling the area home rose in the last decade.

The Census takes place every 10 years, with the latest snapshot captured on March 21 2021.

Figures published by the Office for National Statistics show there were 21,800 people aged 65 and over living in Preston on census day last year – up from 19,246 in 2011, when the Census was last carried out.

It means the proportion of over-65s living in the area rose over the last decade – from 13.7% to 14.7%.

However, Preston has a large proportion of young people – there were 60,700 people aged 29 and under living in Preston on March 21 last year, who accounted for 41% of the population – up from 60,462 (43.1%) in 2011.

Of them, 18,100 under-10s called Preston home.

This trend is reflected across England and Wales as a whole, where the population is ageing.

There were 11.1 million over-65s in 2021 – 18.6% of the population – up from 9.2 million in 2011 (16.4%) and 7.3 million (15.0%) 40 years ago.

Data from the 2021 census for England and Wales will be published in stages over the next two years, the ONS said.

Future releases will include figures on ethnicity, religion, the labour market, education and housing plus – for the first time – information on UK armed forces veterans, sexual orientation and gender identity.

The census was taken at a time when coronavirus restrictions were still in place across the UK, with people only allowed to leave their homes in England for recreation and exercise outdoors with their household or support bubble, or with one person outside their household, and the rule-of-six on outside gatherings not coming into place until the end of March.

The Census, which is used to understand how the UK's population changes over time, shows the balance of men and women across the country.

In Preston, 49.9% of the population was male and 50.1% was female last year – respectively, this compares to 50.1% and 49.9% 10 years ago.

The City of London (55.8%) had the highest male-to-female ratio, while Kensington and Chelsea (46.7%) had the lowest.


We now have more robust figures on the size and characteristics of Preston’s population.

But how do they compare to estimates which are used by decision makers in central and local government to understand their communities’ needs?

Mid-year population estimates are produced annually by the Office for National Statistics and are based on the most recent census.

The ONS rolls forward information from registers for births, deaths and migration surveys to produce each year’s estimate – but it means the further away from the census, the more uncertain they are.

ONS statisticians estimated there were 144,147 people of all ages living in Preston as of mid-2020 – below the 2021 census figure of 147,900.

Snapshot data from the census in March 2021 tells us there were 21,800 (14.7%) over-65s living in the area, showing little difference to the 21,270 (14.8%) estimated by the ONS.

There are more males in Preston than estimated by the ONS – 2021 census results revealed 73,800 males (49.9%) were usual residents, while the mid-2020 prediction was 72,930 (50.6%).

The latest estimates suggested there were 71,217 (49.4%) females in the area, but on census day, 74,100 (50.1%) said Preston was their home.

The ONS says population statistics are “vital in making a range of decisions and informing public debate".

During the coronavirus pandemic, estimates have been used to measure vaccine uptake at a national and regional level, while they are also used to measure unemployment rates, forecast pensions and make decisions about local services – such as the number of school places of the provision of health services for an ageing population.

The 2020 mid-year population estimate for England and Wales as a whole stood at 59.7 million – very close to the 2021 census figure of 59.6 million.

The ONS noted that population change in certain areas "may reflect how the coronavirus pandemic affected people’s choice of usual residence on census day".

“These changes might have been temporary for some and more long-lasting for others," it added.

Page 1 of 1