Selected Subjects: Dependency and Orphanhood

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4.12 Dependency and Orphanhood, 1921 only

In the period immediately following the first World War it became necessary to obtain information about dependency and orphanhood on a national scale in order to arrive at financial estimates of the cost of making provision for the widows and orphans of those who had lost their lives on war service. To meet this need the following questions were included on the schedule in the census of 1921:

Marriage or
Information required only in respect of Married Men,
Widowers and Orphans
For persons aged 15 and over write 'Single', 'Married', 'Widowed' , or if marriage dissolved by divorce write 'D'.

For children aged under 15 write 'Both Alive' if both parents be alive; 'Father Dead' if father be dead, 'Mother Dead' if mother be dead, or 'Both Dead' if both parents be dead
Number and ages of all living children and step-children under 16 years of age whether enumerated on this Schedule or not, ie whether residing as members of this household or elsewhere.
Total number under sixteen years of age. If none write 'None' For each child place a x in the column corresponding to its age. The number of crosses should be the same as the number shown in Column (n)
(e) (n) (c)
    Age last birthday
Under one 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

For the purpose of the enquiry it was assumed that all children under 16 were in fact dependents. The aim was to obtain as complete a survey as possible of the size, constitution and distribution of families which would be regarded as economically dependent on the married and widowed sections of the population. In fact, it covered a wider field than is implied by the term 'dependency' and provided valuable information of general sociological interest. The fertility statistics published in the 1921 report on Dependency, Orphanhood and Fertility were derived from it.

The statistics of dependency in this report gave details of the number of families of all sizes ranging from childless families to those in which there were thirteen under 16 years of age, each group of families being separately analysed so as to show the number of children at each age (under 16) and the distribution by age of the children comprising the youngest of each family. The detailed family classification was given for a complete range of parents' ages and in respect of each separate type of parent (ie whether married man, married woman, widower or widow). In sub┬┐sidiary and less extensive tables statistics were given of variations in localities (geographical regions and counties) and, in respect of the families of married men and widowers, of the personal occupation of the parent.

It was thought that the orphanhood question might give rise to some difficulty in the case of illegitimate children. No special interpretation was afforded in their case, enumerators having been instructed that the answers in respect of illegitimate children, as of the legitimate, should be determined only by the acknowledged facts of the existence of the father or mother.


Tables in the Dependency, Orhpanhood and Fertility report gave the state of orphanhood of children at each year of age under 15 for England and Wales and geographical regions, and in quinquennial groups for administrative counties with associated county boroughs. County Parts gave the same details for urban areas with more than 50,000 population, and the total under 15 by state of orphanhood for urban areas with less than 50,000 population and rural districts.

The report and tables on orphanhood were published in Volume II of the Reports for Scotland; while those relating to dependency were the subject of Volume IV .

The enquiries into dependency and orphanhood were not repeated at later censuses.

Office of Population Censuses and Surveys/General Register Office, Guide to Census Reports: Great Britain 1801-1966 (London: HMSO, 1977) Crown Copyright. The Office of National Statistics has granted the Great Britain Historical GIS Project permission to computerise this publication and include it in this web site. All other rights reserved.

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