The Census of Population is carried out every 10 years by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). 

Every household in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland is sent and asked to complete and return a detailed census questionnaire which asks about the household and all the people within it.

The main purpose of the Census is to provide a count of the population, nationally and for small areas.  This is the base for ONS population estimates for the next 10 years. 

The Census also provides a wide range of demographic information – on family circumstances, employment, health, ethnicity and housing – to complete the most comprehensive source of data available about the people and places of Britain and Northern Ireland.

Census geography

The Census information is published for very small areas of the country, referred to as Output Areas (OAs) and built as groups of postcodes.  There are 1,744 OAs in Sheffield, each with around 300 people or 130 households within them.

Above the OAs there is a nested hierarchy of larger areas:

  • 339 Lower Super Output Areas, each with an average of 1,630 people in 680 households
  • 71 Middle Super Output Areas, each with an average of 7,785 people in 3,240 households

These areas do not fit into the 28 current Sheffield wards, having been designed in 2001 within the previous 29 wards.  All 2011 Census data at ward level is based on a best fit of the Output Areas.

Additional geographies can be constructed by grouping together OAs.


The 2011 Census data is grouped into tables which provide increasing levels of detail:

  • key statistics – providing a small number of basic statistics to describe the population in Output Areas and above
  • quick statistics – referred to as Univariate Tables in 2001, these each provide more detail than the Key Statistics for a single variable in the Census, for example age, ethnicity, employment status, housing tenure, etc for Output Areas and above
  • local characteristics – providing comparisons between Census variables such as age by gender, household size by tenure.  Again these statistics are provided for Output Areas and above
  • detailed characteristics – as the name suggests, these are similar to the Local Characteristics but provide greater levels of detail.  As a result, they are only available for Wards and larger areas.  Detailed breakdowns by ethnic group will only be provided at this level
  • detailed theme – a small number of detailed tables on specific topics or themes
  • armed Forces – statistics on armed forces personnel

Key facts about Sheffield ward populations

  • 21 wards have increased in population size since 2001; the remaining 7 have got smaller
  • the population of Central ward has more than doubled since 2001

The wards that have reduced the most are Birley, Southey, Woodhouse and Graves Park.  Birley and Southey wards both have major regeneration programmes, where houses have been demolished and new properties not yet occupied.


The age structure in the city has changed significantly since 2001.  This is due to a number of factors:

  • natural change, as bulges in the age structure progress through the age range
  • immigration to the city, particularly of overseas and UK students
  • an increased birth rate in the last few years

Student accommodation changes have had a major impact on the young adult population; the 15-19 population has reduced in Broomhill but increased significantly in Fulwood ward.


Most wards vary between 7,000 and 9,000 households.  Central ward has almost 13,000 households, whilst Broomhill has only 5,700.

Population density

Population density – the number of people per hectare – varies greatly across the city:

  • Central, Broomhill and Nether Edge each have over 60 people per hectare
  • Stannington, Stocksbridge and Upper Don, Fulwood and Dore & Totley each have less than 10

These 4 wards each contain parts of the rural areas of the city and the Peak District National Park.

Key statistics

We have produced short briefing notes on the topics included within this release and also a simple statistical profile of the city, together with comparisons where available with 2001.

The main points are:

  • Sheffield’s population in 2011 is 552,698, in 229,928 households
  • almost a third of all households comprise one person living alone, whilst 36% include children
  • 19.2% of Sheffield’s population is of black or minority ethnic origin.  The largest group is of Pakistani origin and makes up 4% of the population.
  • the ethnic groups that have increased the most are Black African, Chinese and Indian, plus those classified as ‘Other’ which includes people of Arab origin.
  • 88% of Sheffield’s residents were born in the UK
  • just over 58% of Sheffield’s households own their own home, either outright or with a mortgage.  25% rent from the Council or other social landlords
  • there are almost as many cars in Sheffield as there are households, although one-third of households do not have access to a car or van.
  • there are almost 67,000 full-time students aged 16 or over
  • 227,800 people aged 16-74 are working, 30,000 of them self-employed
  • more than a quarter of people aged 16 or over are qualified to degree level
  • only 9% of workers are employed in manufacturing; 34% work in the public sector