Warwickshire’s population has, in recent years, often been described as ‘growing and ageing’. Much has been made of the implications of this ageing population for public services generally. However, our analysis of 2011 Census data reveals that different ethnic groups* in the county display some markedly different age structures compared to that of Warwickshire as a whole.
Influenced by a combination of births, deaths and migration patterns, a population pyramid is a useful visual way of looking at the the age structure of different population groups. By creating a population pyramid for a number of ethnic groups in the county we can illustrate the differences in age structure between them and try to explain why they may display different characteristics. Each bar represents the percentage of that ethnic group’s population accounted for by that age and sex.
Males are illustrated in blue on the left of the pyramid while females or in red on the right.
The ageing ‘White British’ population….
Warwickshire’s ageing population is largely a consequence of its ageing ‘White British‘ population which make up the majority of the county’s residents. In 2011, around 89% of Warwickshire’s population identified with the ‘White British’ ethnic group category and will thus have most influence on the shape of Warwickshire’s population pyramid.
The ‘White British’ group in Warwickshire has an older age profile than most other ethnic groups in the county with 19% of its population over the age of 65. This is slightly higher than the national average of almost 17%. The wider lines in the population pyramid for people in their sixties and forties reflect the baby boom years following World War Two and again in the 1960s. Warwickshire is expected to be home to increasing numbers of older people in the future; the over 65 and 85 plus age groups grew faster than any other age groups between 2001 and 2011.
Other ageing populations…
The ‘upside down’ nature of the ‘White Irish‘ ethnic group pyramid suggest an ageing population and low birth rate. Indeed, the ‘White Irish’ population have the oldest age structure of any ethnic group in Warwickshire. Some 38% of ‘White Irish’ residents in the county are aged over 65 and just 5% of the population are under 15 years old. The 2011 Census indicated that the ‘White Irish’ population was the only ethnic group in Warwickshire to actually decline in numbers. The current ‘White Irish’ pyramid’s shape is likely to be in part a refection of earlier settlement here compared with other ethnic groups and subsequent ageing of that population. There is also some evidence nationally to suggest younger people may not be as likely to retain their parents’ ‘White Irish’ ethnic identity so readily as some other ethnic minority groups and hence younger age groups are under-represented with the population structure.
Unlike some other ethnic minority groups, the Asian Indian pyramid displays slightly higher proportions of people aged 65 + (8%). This is most likely related to larger scale immigration experienced prior to the 1970s and subsequent ageing of that population.The 2011 Census indicates that over half of the number of people identifying as ‘Indian’ are UK born residents. So, although in general the ‘Asian Indian’ population is younger than the ‘White British’ population, in the next decade or so they are likely to experience an ageing population akin to the ‘White British’ experience being seen now.
Populations with high numbers of young adults…
Higher proportions of young working age people are a characteristic feature of the ‘Other White‘ population pyramid. Census data indicates that the ‘Other White’ ethnic group population more than doubled in the ten years since 2001. The is most likely explanation for this is the well documented arrival of economic migrants, who tend to be younger working age adults, from EU Accession countries such as Poland over the last decade. Some natural growth may also be apparent as new arrivals begin families, evidenced by higher numbers of 0-4 year olds. Natural change (more births over deaths) may well be a stronger feature of population growth for these populations into the future assuming current numbers of young adults remains fairly constant.
The ‘Asian Chinese‘ population show similar higher numbers of young adults but in the slightly younger ages 15-24 years. One third of Warwickshire’s ‘Asian Chinese’ population is aged between 15 and 24 years. The proportions and numbers increase still further for Warwick District where 45% of the the resident ‘Asian Chinese’ population are aged 15-24 years. One explanation is in-migration to Warwickshire within this age group for study purposes explaining the wider lines in the population pyramid for these age groups.
The youngest populations…..
Ethnic groups displaying the youngest populations include the ‘Black African‘ group and all ‘Mixed’ categories including ‘Mixed White and Black Caribbean‘ illustrated below. The broad base of the ‘Mixed White and Black Caribbean’ reflects the very high proportion, just over half, of the population who are aged under 15 years compared with a county average of around 18%. The ‘Black African‘ group also displays a high proportion of under 15 year olds at 25% of the population. Both groups are characterised by very low, almost absent, proportions of older people. Just 3% of the ‘Mixed White and Black Caribbean’ group and 1% of the ‘Black African’ group are aged over 65.
Some ninety six per cent of residents who identified with the ‘mixed black and white Caribbean’ group were born in the UK . Greater integration in the last few decades may help explain higher numbers of children among the ‘Mixed’ categories as these children, born in the last ten to twenty years, are likely to be born to parents of different ethnicities.
Between 2001 and 2011 residents identifying as ‘Black African’ increased from 389 to 2,173 people. Of this number around 20% are UK born residents. It is likely that in-migration has played a part in contributing to population growth for this group. Additionally, the relatively high numbers of children in the population suggests Warwickshire may have experienced in-migration from families in this ethnic group category. Strong natural change as births exceed deaths in such young population structures are also likely to be part of the picture of population growth for these groups going forward.
The above is a reminder that behind headline trends can be considerable variation. Just as we know there is variation in the headline trend of population growth around the county so too there is variation in the growth and age structure of different groups of people. Moreover, when differences in characteristics are noted between ethnic groups, it may be a function of these different ages structures which is actually being observed.
The different ethnic group populations looked at above will age and grow at different rates based on their current structures and the subsequent interplay of births, deaths and migration patterns. This feature of Warwickshire’s ‘ageing population’ is something about which public sector agencies will need to be aware in future service planning. However, even assumptions about the implications of an ageing population as displayed by Warwickshire ‘s population as a whole have come in for further scrutiny recently as highlighted here. These differences of opinion that abound in relation to the topic of ageing populations simply highlight how tricky it can be to predict with accuracy the likely implications of this well documented process both nationally and locally.
*Collecting data on ethnic group is complex because of the subjective and changing nature of ethnic identification; it is a self-defined concept likely to be influenced by a numbers of factors including common ancestry, culture, identity, religion and language (ONS, 2013). However, it is widely regarded as an important population characteristic used by the public and private sectors to monitor equal opportunities and anti-discriminatory policies and to inform future service provision.