Proposal for age routing in the 2021 Census and potential impact

In 2021, we want to make sure that the census only collects the information that we need from the people of Scotland. We also want to make sure that the questionnaire is easy to complete and takes as little time as possible. With this in mind we would like to introduce some age routing to the questionnaire so that people are only asked questions that are relevant to them. This means for example that the person completing the form will not be asked how well a 2 year old can read English or where a 6 month old baby lived a year ago.

For the online questionnaire the response used to the date of birth question will be used to calculate a person’s age and which questions will be relevant to them, so they will not need to respond to questions that are not relevant to them. On the paper questionnaire we will provide guidance on the form about which questions should be answered by people of particular ages.

In 2011, limited age related routing was used and only those aged 16 or over were asked to answer the qualifications question and the questions around employment. This meant that some people got upset or confused when asked to answer a question that was not relevant and the quality of responses was affected. For example; some people wrote on the form why they couldn’t answer this question and this was scanned as ticking certain response items, others answered based on what they thought would happen in the future. We propose to avoid this situation in 2021 by only asking relevant age groups certain questions. These proposals are as follows:

Questions asked of people aged 16 or over:

The new question on trans status or history

The new question on sexual orientation

The new question on Ex Service status

The question on legal marital and civil partnership status

The qualifications held question

The questions on employment and activity last week

Questions asked of people aged 5 and over:

The question on provision of unpaid care

Questions asked of people aged 4 and over:

The question on whether you are a school child or full-time student

The questions on travel to place of work or study

Questions asked of people aged 3 and over:

All of the language questions

Questions asked of people aged 1 and over:

The question on address 1 year ago

All other individual questions will be asked for everyone.

In the vast majority of cases the use of age routing will not affect the level of detail in the information published from the census data, as the output from these questions was only published for these age groups. This is because of data quality and disclosure concerns (due to small numbers) around the information provided on these questions for those who were not in these age groups. The one exception to this is the information on Gaelic language skills where information on all ages was included in the Gaelic report despite quality concerns.

We would like to hear from you what you think of these proposals. In particular, we would like to discuss the potential impact on the Gaelic report of this change.

Please contact the Scotland’s Census mailbox if you have any concerns, would like further information or would like to discuss this further.