Evaluation, Revision and Extension of Ethnic Population Projections - NewETHPOP

Co-Investigator: Pia Wohland (Hull York Medical School)
PDRA: Stephen Clark

This project aims to understand and to forecast the ethnic transition in the United Kingdom’s population at national and subnational levels. The ethnic transition is the change in population composition from one dominated by the White British to much greater diversity. In the decade 2001-2011 the UK population grew strongly as a result of high immigration, increased fertility and reduced mortality. Both the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and Leeds University estimated the growth or decline in the sixteen ethnic groups making up the UK’s population in 2001. The 2011 Census results revealed that both teams had over-estimated the growth of the White British population and under-estimated the growth of the ethnic minority populations. The wide variation between our local authority projected populations in 2011 and the Census suggested inaccurate forecasting of internal migration. We propose to develop, working closely with ONS as our first external partner, fresh estimates of mid-year ethnic populations and their components of change using new data on the later years of the decade and new methods to ensure the estimates agree in 2011 with the Census. This will involve using population accounting theory and an adjustment technique known as iterative proportional fitting to generate a fully consistent set of ethnic population estimates between 2001 and 2011.

We will study, at national and local scales, the development of demographic rates for ethnic group populations (fertility, mortality, internal migration and international migration). The ten-year time series of component summary indicators and age-specific rates will provide a basis for modelling future assumptions for projections. We will, in our main projection, align the assumptions to the ONS 2012-based principal projection. The national assumptions will need conversion to ethnic groups and to local scale. The ten years of revised ethnic-specific component rates will enable us to study the relationships between national and local demographic trends. In addition, we will analyse a consistent time series of local authority internal migration. We cannot be sure, at this stage, how the national-local relationships for each ethnic group will be modelled but we will be able to test our models using the time series.

Of course, all future projections of the population are uncertain. We will, therefore, work to measure the uncertainty of component rates. The error distributions can be used to construct probability distributions of future populations via stochastic projections so that we can define confidence intervals around our projections. Users of projections are always interested in the impact of the component assumptions on future populations. We will run a set of reference projections to estimate the magnitude and direction of impact of international migrations assumptions (net effect of immigration less emigration), of internal migration assumptions (the net effect of in-migration less out-migration), of fertility assumptions compared with replacement level, of mortality assumptions compared with no change and finally the effect of the initial age distribution (i.e. demographic potential).

The outputs from the project will be a set of technical reports on each aspect of the research, journal papers submitted for peer review and a database of projection inputs and outputs available to users via the web. The demographic inputs will be subject to quality assurance by Edge Analytics, our second external partner. They will also help in disseminating these inputs to local government users who want to use them in their own ethnic projections. In sum, the project will show how a wide range of secondary data sources can be used in theoretically refined demographic models to provide us with a more reliable picture of how the UK population is going to change in ethnic composition.

Grant reference: ES/L013878/1

Project website