Sunday, March 27, 2011

The UK census

Today is the day to complete the UK census. I got very excited when we received our census packet; though there was an option to fill out the census online, I personally, nerdily, love filling out forms and told The Irishman I would take over filling out the bulk of the document. Secretly, I was also excited and intrigued to see just what the government wanted to know about me.

Like the US, the UK census comes around every 10 years and is compulsory. Unlike the US census, the government is surveying households on a particular day (today), so if you're visiting a friend and staying with them you are counted with them as part of his/her household as well. If you're travelling and not at home today, you have to fill out a special section explaining why and get it done asap. The most notable differences in the document itself were questions that pointed towards the UK's more liberal social policy stances: questions about marital status included as many options for gay people as for straight. The race and religion questions also had many more options, as well as write-in opportunities, than in the US. There were questions about health, occupation, and caretaking, and I had a pretty hard time trying to figure out how my academic credentials matched with UK degree levels.

The Irishman found my enthusiasm for the census to be pretty hilarious, but I did find that filling out the form gave me a really good understanding for how British social policy is planned and executed. I any documents that survey people and find the questions to be more telling than the answers. Just one more little peak under the covers of British society and culture.


  1. It really gave you an idea how social policy is planned and executed? I found the census to be vague. Maybe because I saw it as more of an annoyance and just did it because I would get fined otherwise and didn't pay much attention :)

  2. Planned yes... maybe I was exaggerating on the executed part. I just don't remember questions about caretaking, about mental health, etc on the US census. And also, any sort of form like that gives you a tiny glimpse into what policymakers are interested in knowing - they wouldn't put the questions in otherwise!