Geographic Areas Census Geography and Postcodes

Clifford McDowell

Geographic Areas Census Geography and Postcodes enable the capture of statistics and the grouping of addresses. With the exception of postcodes, most of these areas are designed for use in the census, these are used to group population and other statistics into comparable areas which are essential to those who have to plan and allocate resources.

Geographic Areas and Census Geography, Output Area (OA), Lower Super Output Area (LSOA) and Middle Super Output Area (MSOA) continue to be used to release new datasets long after the census has been completed, as such they are very useful for data modelling and grouping purposes.

Postcodes are more useful for marketing purposes and are a good way of joining an address to a location for analysis and comparison purposes.

The most commonly used Geographic Areas Census Geography and Postcode areas are detailed below their respective numbers.

Area TypeDescriptionEnglandWalesScotlandNorthern IrelandRepublic of IrelandResidentsHouseholds
Output Area (OA)Output areas (OA) were originally created for Census data, specifically for the output of census estimates. The OA is the lowest geographical level at which census estimates are provided. Many other government datasets have incorporated OAs as standard release level.171,37210,03646,352(See Small Area)(See Small Area)100 to 625 (Scotland >50)40 to 250 (Scotland >20)
Lower Super Output Area (LSOA)Lower Super Output Area (LSOA) is a GEOGRAPHIC AREA. Lower Super Output Areas are a geographic hierarchy designed to improve the reporting of small area statistics. Lower Super Output Areas are built from groups of contiguous Output Areas (OAs).32,8441,909(See Datazone)890n/a1,000 to 3,000400 to 1,200
Datazone (DZ)Datazones are Scotland's equivalent to LSOAs. Datazones are a geographic hierarchy designed to improve the reporting of small area statistics. Datazones are built from groups of contiguous Output Areas (OAs).n/an/a6,976n/an/a500 to 1,000n/a
Middle Super Output Area (MSOA)Middle Layer Super Output Area (MSOA) is a GEOGRAPHIC AREA. Middle Layer Super Output Areas are a geographic hierarchy designed to improve the reporting of small area statistics. Middle Layer Super Output Areas are built from groups of contiguous Lower Layer Super Output Areas.6,791410n/an/an/a5,000 to 15,0002,000 to 6,000
Intermediate Zone (IZ)Intermediate zones are a statistical geography that sit between Datazones and local authorities, created for use with the Scottish Neighbourhood Statistics (SNS) programme and the wider public sector.n/an/a1,279n/an/a2,500 to 6,000n/a
Electoral WardsThe wards and electoral divisions in the United Kingdom are electoral districts at sub-national level represented by one or more councillors.7,707881353582n/a>100>40
Detailed Characteristic Sectors (DC)A Detailed Characteristic sector is one of two special postcode sectors. In order to release more in-depth census information the National Records of Scotland introduced DC sectors in 2011 to provide a minimum threshold of households and personsn/an/a867n/an/a>1,000>400
Small Areas (SA)Small Areas allow the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland to join their data to create a comparable census. These are equivalent to the OAs used in the rest of the UK.n/an/an/a4,53718,488Avg 35050 to 200
AddressesStandard addressable locations as recognised by Royal Mail and An Post26,027,235 1,527,397 2,778,037 879,860 2,200,457n/an/a
Postcode Areas (e.g. AB)The postcode area is the largest postal unit and forms the initial characters of the alphanumeric UK postcode104 16 n/an/an/a
Postcode Districts (e.g. AB13)All, or part, of one or more postcode districts are grouped into post towns2,235 211 455 80 n/a n/an/a
Postcode Sectors (e.g. AB13 0)A postcode sector includes a postcode area, postcode district and a single character identifying the location's inward code9,116 605 1,138 248 n/a n/an/a
User Postcodes (e.g. AB13 0EW)A postcode or "postcode unit" denotes the smallest postal area with a number of addresses or a single major delivery point.1,457,466  91,423157,641 48,993 n/an/aMax 100 (Avg 17)



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