Usual Residence

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At the Census of 1931, a question was included for the first time asking that for each person whose usual residence was elsewhere than with the householders with whom he or she was enumerated, the address of usual residence should be returned as part of his or her Census record The classified statistics derived from this inquiry are published in Tables 9A, 9B and 9C of the 1931 Census General Tables Volume

With the exception of inquiries themselves involving specific area identification such as those relating to birthplace or to workplace, the only criterion of location hitherto identified or employed in analyses of Census records has been the area of enumeration, under which each member of the population is assigned to the area—region, county town, parish, etc.—with which he happened to be associated on Census night. Though the association is theoretically an accidental one, statistical analyses of populations based upon this assignment have been regarded and generally accepted as equivalent to distributions according to the home areas of the population. It has never been intended to imply that no people are away from home on Census night but merely that the difference between the numbers temporarily present and absent at the time are sufficiently small in relation to the total populations of the bulk of the areas identified not to invalidate the general equivalence of the two concepts to any material degree; and in order to secure that this condition shall be secured, and the area of enumeration shall coincide as far as possible with the home area, Censuses in this country since 1841 have, with the unavoidable exception of 1921, invariably been taken in the early spring, when occasional population movements can be expected to be at a low level and not affected by the larger displacements associated with the summer holiday months.

The 1921 Census was exceptional in this respect as indicated, for though originally planned to be taken in April, it had at the last moment to be postponed on account of industrial disturbance and could not be carried out until the 19th June; while that date succeeded in avoiding the worst of the summer migration, the latter movement had begun and there is no doubt that the populations of the towns and areas usually affected by this movement would have been sensibly lower at the earlier date.

With this recent experience in mind, coupled with a recognition of the fact that transport development was progressively increasing the chance of populations being absent from their homes at weekends outside the principal holiday season, it was felt that a test was desirable to ascertain how far Census analyses of local populations based on the enumerated might be regarded as continuing to meet needs and problems more specifically associated with residents.

It was in these circumstances that the usual residence question was asked for the first time in 1931. In the unanticipated circumstances of an emergency such as that which presented itself in 1921, the new information would provide a sound basis for the identification and classification of local populations. But it was not intended so to use it otherwise; the administrative advantages of retaining the area of enumeration as the basis of local classifications is too great to be sacrificed without substantial statistical justification since the local tabulation processes which are put in train immediately the Census schedules are received would be indefinitely held up if and until the non-residents in all areas of the country were identified, extracted, sorted and replaced in their several residence areas. If the returns had demonstrated an outstanding statistical justification for such wholesale redistribution, the lesson would have been available for use at future Censuses. So far as 1931 is concerned, the record is of positive value in supplying adjustments which are taken into account by the Registrar General in the construction of his annual estimates of resident populations and as regards the 1931 Census record itself, it serves an important function in demonstrating the general scale of approximation attaching to the de facto records and at the same time specifically identifying those areas in which the population representation is abnormally affected by the presence of temporary visitors.

The form in which the question was asked in column C of the 1931 Census schedule was as follows:—

Usual Residence
(1) For persons included in this Schedule who usually reside at this dwelling or establishment, write " Here."
(2) For those who have a more usual residence elsewhere, give full postal address of usual residence.
(3) For those who have no settled place of residence, write " None."
See Instructions.

The term "usual residence", though free from ambiguity in the case of the bulk of the population, is not however of formal or statutory significance and to provide for consistent treatment in the occasional exceptional circumstances in which doubt would have been experienced, the question was supplemented by the following instructions printed on the back of the schedule:—


Visitors. —Persons described in column B as "Visitor" cannot, of course, be usually resident at the premises to which the schedule relates: and the reply "Here" would be wrong in such cases. All persons enumerated while on a visit to either a private family or to an Hotel, Club, Boarding House or Lodging-house should give the full postal address of their usual residence, viz., their home address. This applies also to the case of visitors from abroad, who should give their full home postal address in the country overseas from which they have come.

Hotels, Boarding Houses, etc. —See above—"Visitors." But persons enumerated at a private or other Hotel, Boarding House or Residential Club at which they have a settled residence, and who have no more usual place of residence elsewhere, should regard the Hotel, Club, etc., as their usual residence and write "Here." Persons who move from one Hotel to another and have no settled residence anywhere should write "None."

Resident Domestic Servants, Shop Assistants, etc., who live in should regard their "situation" (the private family, Hotel or Boarding House, etc., at which they are employed), or the living-in premises, as their usual residence. Such persons, if enumerated at the place of employment or living-in premises, should write "Here." If enumerated while staying elsewhere with friends or relatives, they should give the address of the place of employment or living-in premises as their usual residence. But "daily" domestic servants should regard their own home as their usual residence and reply accordingly.

Scholars, Students, Undergraduates, etc., of a residential school, college or university who happen to be enumerated at their home address should state in column C the name and address of the residential school or college in which they usually reside during term time. University students who reside in term time in lodgings in the university town should regard such lodgings as their usual place of residence.

How far the instructions concerning these special classes of population were complied with it is not possible to ascertain with any finality, though evidence of unevenness in response is not lacking from the classified results. Where the individuals concerned would naturally have regarded themselves as within the status of temporary "visitors", there should have been little objection to giving their home address and there is no reason to suppose that failure to do so in such straightforward cases was of any significance.

But in some cases, the interpretation of "usual residence" may have occasioned real doubt and where the person responsible for the return failed to read the special instruction, or having read it found difficulty in accepting its apparent implication, some of the replies may have departed from the strict intention of the Census convention, particularly in cases where the individual happened not to be enumerated at the "usual residence" indicated by the Census direction.

Thus a resident domestic or a shop assistant might well be reluctant to return her employer's house or living-in premises as being a preferable usual residence to the more permanent anchorage of her own home.

It is not thought that the misinterpretation will have materially influenced the statistical record except in one particular class of cases, viz., the resident scholars of educational institutions who, in spite of the specific Census direction, failed in large measure to return their school address as their usual residence. Public schools in general were in vacation on Census day and it is clear, from the records of those areas where the proportion of school residents is known to be large in relation to the local population, that the Census assignments in respect of the special class are definitely fewer than they would have been had the instruction regarding usual residence been fully complied with. In constructing annual estimates of population on the basis of the Census record, the latter has been adjusted so as to remedy the Census deficiency in those areas where it is likely to have been of consequence.

Of the total numbers enumerated away from their homes only those whose usual residence was outside the borough or county district in which they were enumerated have been taken into account in the Census analysis. The identification and rearrangement of this section of the returns was a considerable undertaking in itself and to have extended it to cover the shorter range and less important displacements within the several Local Authority areas would have added to the complexity of the proceedings without commensurate addition to the value of the record.

Of the total population enumerated in England and Wales, 836,185 persons (2.1 per cent, of the whole) stated that their "usual residence" was elsewhere than in the borough, urban or rural district in which they were enumerated. Of this figure 77,849 were foreign or other visitors to England and Wales with their homes outside while the balance of 758,336 represents the amount of the displacements within the national boundary on the Census night of 26th April.

So far as concerns the numbers whose normal residence was outside England and Wales it will be seen from column g of Table 9 of the General Tables Volume that they were widely dispersed over the country generally, there being comparatively few areas in which none were recorded; generally speaking however, their incidence was insignificant in relation to the total populations of the areas, the proportions rarely exceeding one or two per thousand except for a few well denned concentrations mainly associated with the metropolitan area. The highest number and proportion to total occurs in the Metropolitan Borough of Westminster where 4,581 individuals so identified represent 3-5 per cent, of the enumerated population; in Holborn Metropolitan Borough with a far smaller total population, the non-resident element from other countries amounts to 1,478 or 3-8 per cent, of the total. In Kensington, Paddington and St. Marylebone the numbers exceeded 1,000 and were between 1 and 2 per cent, of the total while in Hampstead and St. Pancras the numbers were substantial though slightly below 1 per cent. Outside London, moderate concentrations are returned from Southampton C.B. (1,006 or .6 per cent.) and Bournemouth (834 or 7 per cent.), the only other borough in which the number exceeds 1,000 being Liverpool with 2,132 representing less than -3 per cent, of its total population.

In respect of displacements within England and Wales, columns c and d of Table 9 (General Tables Volume) show that in practically every area identified, some visitors from other areas of the country were present on Census night and at the same time some of their residents were enumerated elsewhere in England and Wales; the difference between the two representing either an excess of the enumerated over residents or vice versa. So far as the validity of the enumerated record is concerned it is only this net difference that is of concern and this is shown both in absolute numbers and as a proportion of the enumerated population in columns e and f of Table 9.

Amongst the 1,793 separate boroughs, urban districts and rural districts identified at the Census, the difference either way amounted to less than 1 per cent, of the enumerated in 1,236 of the areas, between 1 and 2 per cent, in a further 327 areas and was in excess of 2 per cent, in the remaining 230 areas. The latter are individually distinguished in the following extracts from Table 9 in which the two types of displacement are displayed in diminishing order for the different categories of areas.



These extracts indicate that the largest differences in the two categories are mainly associated with a particular type of area in the case of each. The areas in which the principal excesses of enumerated over resident occur are almost exclusively seaside towns or holiday resorts, the excess rising to as much as of 17 per cent, in the urban districts of Grasmere and Grange; neither here nor elsewhere however can the temporary visitor element which the percentages reflect, bear much relation to the corresponding proportions which would be met with at the height of the summer and the classification serves mainly to indicate that incidence of the said visitor element in this class of area is not negligible and may be quite considerable during periods of the year outside the normal holiday months.

Amongst the areas in which the enumerated population was less than the resident population (as defined for the Census inquiry), the maximum recorded differences are largely associated with smallish areas in which public schools or other residential educational institutions furnish a considerable element of the local population, the outstanding examples of the list being the urban districts of Eton, Oundle and Marlborough in respect of which the residents recorded as absent on Census night amounted to 21.8, 14.5 and 10.7 per cent, respectively of the enumerated totals. As pointed out above however, it is known that many absent school residents failed to return the school address as their usual residence and the tabular figures in respect of areas associated with this type of population must accordingly be read as materially understating the differences which otherwise should have been registered.

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