Big shift from English to British identity in new census data

Published: Tuesday, 29th November 2022

Census data on nationality and ethnicity in Oxford shows thousands more people now choose British rather than English as their national identity.

Only 8.5% of Oxford residents now identify as ‘English only’, down from 42.5% in the 2011 census. The number who identify as ‘British only’ has jumped from 22.9% to 49%, in what may be a post-Brexit shift in national identity. This is also a national trend – although the ONS also highlight that changes to the question structure may have influenced the answers. Overall, those with a British national identity (including English, Scottish, Welsh, Northern Irish and Cornish) make up 76% of Oxford’s population.

Nationality

Census data earlier this month showed Oxford has a very diverse population. Today’s data focuses on self-identity of nationality rather than nationality by passport, so reflects how people see themselves.

Within the EU national identities, Portuguese is the largest EU nationality and has grown from 0.6% to 1.9% since 2011. Polish is the second largest EU national group.

Other EU national identities have also seen small increases – Romanian (up 0.8%), Spanish (up 0.5%), Italian (up 0.4%). Some EU national identities however saw small decreases:  Polish (down 0.4%) German (down 0.2%) and French (down 0.1%)

Outside the EU, one group that has changed significantly is Hong Kong Chinese. In 2011 there were 55 residents who identified as Hong Kong Chinese, jumping to 419 residents (0.3%) in 2021. This likely reflects the changing political situation in Hong Kong and the visa scheme that launched in January 2021.

Ethnicity

Ethnicity in the city is also changing. The majority of people are white, at 70.7%, followed by Asian (including east and southeast Asian) at 15.4%. More people identify as having a mixed ethnic background, at 5.6%, and the Black population makes up 4.7% of the population.

The biggest increase is in Oxford’s Asian ethnic group, now 15.4% of the population (up 3%). This is much higher than both the county (6.4%) and national (9.6%) figures.

Of people who identify as Asian, the Pakistani community has seen the biggest increase –from 3.2% to 4.1% of the total city population. The Indian community has seen the second biggest increase from 2.9% to 3.7%.  The Chinese Community has grown from 2.3% to 2.8% of Oxford’s population.

Oxford’s Black population is largely unchanged at 4.7%.

Ethnic group

2011 (%)

2021 (%)

White

77.7

70.7

Asian

12.4

15.4

Chinese

2.3

2.8

Bangladeshi

1.2

1.2

Pakistani

3.2

4.1

Indian

2.9

3.7

Other Asian

2.8

3.6

Mixed

4

5.6

Black

4.6

4.7

Caribbean

1.2

1

African

2.9

3.1

Other Black

0.5

0.5

Religion

Nationally there is a trend for fewer people to have a religious belief, and this is also true in Oxford. Just over half of people still have a religious belief, at 51.1% compared to 58.6% in 2011.

Christianity remains the largest religion, but has seen the biggest decrease of all religions – down from 48% in 2011 to 38.1%.  Oxford has a lower proportion of residents who identify as Christian compared to the county and nationally.

The religion that has seen the biggest increase is Islam, up from 6.8% to 8.7% - an increase of 1.9%. There is a larger proportion of Muslim residents in Oxford compared to both the county (3.2%) and nationally (6.7%).

The Hindu population in Oxford has also increased slightly – up from 1.3% to 1.6%. Other religions remain broadly unchanged since the previous census.

Language

Today’s data release also includes information on people’s identified main language. This may be the language they use most day to day or their first language, and does not identify all languages they can speak. In keeping with the diversity of the city, a large minority identified a language other than English as their main language (18.1%), higher than the national average of 9.2%. Portuguese was the most widely spoken other language.

“This is really important data to understand our communities in Oxford. How people identify themselves can change, as the shift from English to British shows, as well as changes from people moving in and out of the city. As the council, we’ll use this data to make sure our policies meet the needs of a changing population and to tackle inequalities.  We all need to know how our city is evolving so that we can all play our part in building strong, welcoming and supportive communities.”

Councillor Shaista Aziz, Cabinet Member for Inclusive Communities and Culture

Data was collected during covid restrictions, and so may not fully reflect the normal population of the city.