A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46


Method of Sampling .

In order to carry out this inquiry the Social Survey had to obtain a representative sample, numbering not less than a thousand, of persons aged 60 and over who were in employment in the middle of 1945. The age of 60 was chosen as the earliest at which any considerable number of persons retired.

No records covering all old persons in employment exist. Ministry of Health records applied only to men aged 65 and over and women aged 60 and over who were in insurable employment, and it was known that many old persons who were working were not in insurable employment.

It was decided, therefore, to sample the whole population of England and Wales and derive from this a sub sample of persons aged 60 and over who were still in employment. It was estimated, very roughly because of the lack of data, that in order to obtain a sub sample of 1,000 - 1,500 persons it would be necessary to approach 12,000 households. This proved to be a fair estimate.

Considerable advantages accrued from this way of obtaining the sub sample of old persons in employment. The chief advantage was that old persons in employment could be compared on many points of detail with old persons not in employment. On housing conditions both groups could be compared with the population under 60. These advantages may, on the whole, have outweighed the disadvantages of extra cost and extra time taken in interviewing and tabulating.

The Main Sample

(i) Sampling Method

The sample of 12,000 households set as a target was stratified by civil defence region and size of town on the basis of the Registrar General’s population figures for March 1945. For example, 16% of the population lived in the North-Western Region, and 16% of the sample of 12,000 was allocated to that region. Within the North-Western region that proportion of the sample was then allocated according to the percentage of persons living in towns of four different sizes - up to 40,000 inhabitants; over 40,000 to 80,000 inhabitants; over 80,000 to 200,000 inhabitants, and over 200,000 inhabitants. One or more towns were chosen in each group of towns of the given size. The towns were chosen on the basis of geographical position within the region. A list of the town visited is given in Appendix C.

It will be noticed that although it was proposed to sample households the interviews were allocated on the basis of population. No other method was possible at the time, since the number of households in each region was then unknown. The average family size does not vary greatly from one region to another, however, and a comparison of the proportions of the sample allocated to each region with the proportions which would have been allocated if the household distribution had then been known, shows very slight differences between the two. The North-West, for instance, where 16% of the sample was allocated should have had 15%.

The final selection of addresses to be visited was made from the Rating Lists of the Local Authority. Addresses were drawn at regular intervals from these lists, and it was laid down that in the first place the housewife at this address was to be interviewed and the details about members of her household obtained from her. In cases of losses due to empty houses, the housewife not being at home, or for other reasons, a list of substitute addresses was drawn in the same way.

A complication of this method of drawing addresses is the possible presence of two or more households at each address. In certain instances it is possible, therefore, that areas with a high proportion of multiple tenanted dwellings will be over represented in the sample. Regionally, this complication is not of great importance outside London, since an analysis of the figures on multiple tenanted dwellings derived from this sample shows in 10 regions an average of 95% of dwellings with one household, with a variance of 1%.

Sampling losses have introduced greater variations between regions than would have been caused by the presence of multiple dwellings, as the note on Regional analyses points out later.

(ii) Sample Analyses and Comparisons

Because of a limit on the length of time in which the work could be completed the sample finally obtained was reduced to 11,276 households. Included in these households were 40,504 persons, of whom 35,941 lived at home at the time of the inquiry, the majority of the remainder being in the Armed Forces. This sample was six per cent smaller than the number of addresses taken, and, allowing for multiple dwellings at these addresses, 13% less than might have been expected. Analyses of the sample and comparisons of the data with material derived from other sources suggest, however, that the affect of this loss of interviews upon the validity of the data is not great. A comparison is made below of the age distribution of the sample of persons at home at the time of the inquiry with the age distribution of the civilian population as calculated by the Registrar-General for June 1945.

Age Sample Survey 1945 Civ. Population Registrar-Gen. June 1945
% %
0 - 4 years 7.9 8.4
5 - 9 years 7.6 7.5
10 - 14 years 7.2 7.4
15 - 19 years 6.8 6.8
20 - 39 years 26.0 24.9
40 - 59 years 28.5 28.1
60 - 64 years 5.0 5.5
65 and over 10.9 11.5
Unclassified .1 -
35,941 -

The differences between the percentages derived from the Survey and the Registrar-General’s returns are in all cases small. It must be remembered also, that the Registrar-General’s figures include persons in institutions. The sample figures do not.

Further analyses of the sample, where possible with comparisons from other sources are given below:-

(a) Urban/Rural proportions: Mid 1945

This classification was based on administrative district.

Sample Registrar-Gen
Persons Households June 1945 (Persons)
% % %
Urban 81 81 80
Rural 19 19 20
35,941 11,276 100

(b) Proportions in each Civil Defence Region: Mid 1945

A list of the counties included in each Civil Defence Region is given in Appendix C. The total number of persons included those who were away at the time of the inquiry.

Persons Persons
No. % No. %
North 3695 9 East 3137 8
North East 3394 8 London 6157 16
North West 6798 17 South East 1300 4
North Midland 2557 6 South 2287 5
Wales 3442 8 South West 3820 9
Midlands 3914 10 England & Wales 40504 100

The North, Wales, and South West regions are slightly over represented in this sample, and the North Midland, London, and South East slightly under represented. Experiments in giving appropriate weights to the regions showed, however, that the figures for England and Wales were unaffected, and accordingly, no weights have been used in the analyses.

(c) Proportions in each Economic Group

Economic groups are based on households not on individuals. A household is classified according to the weekly wage rate, or its equivalent, of the chief wage earner, or his/her equivalent, in the household. The classification does not include subsidiary earners.

The lowest economic group is composed mainly of households wherein the chief wage earner, or equivalent, is a social pensioner or woman in unskilled or semi-skilled employment.

The economic group with over £3. - £4. weekly is composed mainly of labourers’ households.

The middle economic group is composed mainly of households in which the chief wage earner, is a semi-skilled or skilled man, or in the lower clerical grades.

The fourth income group includes higher clerical grades, minor executives, and lower professional groups. The fifth grade covers the remainder of the population.

A comparison is made below between the distribution of the civilian population by economic groups as obtained in this sample and a similar distribution derived from a quasi-random sample of individuals obtained for the ‘Survey of Sickness’ + for the months of May, June and July 1945.

The Sample (Eng. & Wales) Mid 1945 ‘Survey of Sickness’ Eng. & Wales) May-July 1945
% %
Up to £3. weekly 21 20
Over £3. - £4. weekly 25 25
Over £4. - £5.10. weekly 34 32
Over £5. - £10. weekly 12 13
Over £10. weekly 4 4
Unclassified 4 6
Sample: 35,941 7,820

(d) Working/not Working

To be classified as working a person had to be engaged in gainful employment for more than 10 hours weekly. A check on the sample can be obtained

÷ A monthly survey carried out for the Ministry of Health and based on a stratified sample with random selection of individuals from local records by comparing it in this respect with figures prepared by the Central Statistical Office for June 1945.

Proportion of all persons in employment. Civ. Pop. June 1945: (Men 14-64: Women 14-59)
Sample (Eng. & Wales) Cent. Stats. Office (Inc Scotland)
No. % No. %
Working 14,611 61 16,334,000 60
Not working 9,228 39 10,736,000 40
Total 23,839 100 27,070,000 100

(iii) Sub-Sample: Persons over 60 in employment; Mid 1945

The names and addresses of all old persons in employment were recorded and they were revisited in August 1945. Altogether, 1,571 old persons were recorded as being in employment, and of these 961 were interviewed in August. The loss arose principally because of the low rate of interviews per day, and a limit on the time in which the interviews could be completed, an unexpectedly high refusal rate, (possibly due to re-interviewing and certainly partly due to suspicion on the part of old persons about inquiries into their work - a reflection perhaps of a sense of insecurity) and partly to removals to unknown addresses.

Fortunately it is possible to compare the sub-sample obtained with the original sample. Comparative age distributions follow:-

Original Sub-Sample Sub-Sample obtained
% %
60 - 64 years 51 49
65 - 69 years 31 34
70 - 74 years 14 14
75 - 79 years 2 2
80 and over 1 1
All Ages 1571 961

The principal differences are a slight loss of persons aged 60-64 years and a slight gain of persons 65-69 years.

The proportion of men and women are the same in both samples.

An occupational distribution of the original sample and the sample obtained shows slight differences.

Occupation Original Sub Sample Sub-Sample obtained
% %
Labouring 17 20
Operatives - unskilled 4 6
- skilled 6 8
- others 35 32
Clerical 6 5
Managerial & Supervisory 6 6
Professional & Technical 6 4
Self-employed 18 19
Unclassified 2 1
Sample: 1571 931

In the sub-sample obtained there are somewhat higher proportions of labourers end operatives than in the original sub-sample.

The proportion of part-timers and full-timers are almost identical.

Hours worked weekly Original Sub-Sample Sub-Sample obtained
% %
Up to and including 30 hours 11 10
Over 30 hours weekly 89 90
Sample: 1571 931

An analysis by economic group reflects to some extent the occupation differences between the two samples.

Original Sub-Sample Sub-Sample obtained
% %
Up to £3. weekly 12 15
Over £3. - £4. weekly 33 34
Over £4. - £5.10. weekly 32 34
Over £5.10. - £10. weekly 12 11
Over £10. weekly 6 5
Unclassified 3 2
Sample: 1571 931

The sub-sample obtained has, therefore, a slightly higher proportion of older persons, labourers and operatives, and persons in the lowest economic group, than the original sub-sample.

We use cookies to track usage and preferences.

Privacy & Cookie Policy Accept & Close