Census 2021

The Census is a survey of all households in England and Wales. It is currently taking place and everyone should take part.

With a population of 575,400 in mid-2016, the City of Sheffield is England’s third largest district authority. The city grew rapidly during the industrial revolution.

In 1801 its population was 60,100. By 1851 it had increased to 161,500 and by 1901 it was 451,200. At its peak, in 1951, the population numbered 577,050.

There is a clear bulge in the population in the 20 to 24 age group. This is caused by Sheffield’s significant student population at its two universities. The increase in recent years is largely the result of 2 factors:

  • there are now more births than deaths in Sheffield, resulting in a positive ‘natural change’ in the population
  • there has been an increase in the level of international migration to Sheffield

Population projections

The most recent population projections for Sheffield are based on the 2014 population estimates. They show the population by age group up to 2039.

Sheffield's population is projected to increase by around 88,600 people over the 25-year period to 652,300 in 2039.

According to the projections, there will be more males than females in Sheffield from 2023 onwards. Longer life expectancy has meant that there were more females than males in the population, but increases in life expectancy for men coupled with higher male in-migration had resulted in this change. Figures also suggest that the number of people aged over 65 will grow by 42% in the next 25 years, whilst the number of those aged 85 and over will more than double.

Population projections are taken from the Office of National Statistics. Figures based on 2016 population estimates are due to be released by ONS in May/June 2016. An infographic about Sheffield's population projections can be downloaded.

Ethnicity and diversity

Sheffield is an ethnically diverse city, with around 19% of its population from black or minority ethnic groups. The largest of those groups is the Pakistani community, but Sheffield also has large Caribbean, Indian, Bangladeshi, Somali, Yemeni and Chinese communities.

More recently, Sheffield has seen an increase in the number of overseas students coming to the city and in the number economic migrants from European Union ascension states (countries which joined the European Union in or after 2004).

The Census

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.


2011 Census key points

The main points from the 2011 Census were:

  • Sheffield’s population was 552,698, in 229,928 households
  • almost a third of all households comprised one person living alone, whilst 36% included children
  • 19.2% of Sheffield’s population was of black or minority ethnic origin.  The largest group was of Pakistani origin and made up 4% of the population
  • the ethnic groups that had increased the most were 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 owned their own home, either outright or with a mortgage.  25% rented from the Council or other social landlords
  • there were almost as many cars in Sheffield as there are households, although one-third of households did not have access to a car or van
  • there were almost 67,000 full-time students aged 16 or over
  • 227,800 people aged 16-74 were working, 30,000 of them self-employed
  • more than a quarter of people aged 16 or over were qualified to degree level
  • only 9% of workers were employed in manufacturing; 34% worked in the public sector

Sheffield’s ward populations

  • 21 wards increased in population size since 2001; the remaining 7 got smaller
  • the population of Central ward had more than doubled since 2001
  • the wards that had reduced the most were Birley, Southey, Woodhouse and Graves Park
  • Birley and Southey wards both had major regeneration programmes, where houses had been demolished and new properties were not occupied at the time of the census