A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46



(1) Method

The sample was designed to represent primarily children under the age of sixteen in England and Wales, and secondarily to represent the mothers of such children.

Appropriate proportions of children were selected in each of five regions, and within each region in large and small towns and in rural districts.

The five regions were as follows:

North , comprising Civil Defence Regions, Nos. 1, 2 and 10.

Midlands & Wales , comprising Civil Defence Regions Nos. 3, 8 and 9.

South & East , comprising Civil Defence Regions Nos, 4, 6, 7 and 12.

London , being Civil Defence Region No. 5.

The names and addresses of children in selected areas were drawn at regular intervals from the National Registration Cards for persons aged under sixteen, and the mothers of these children were visited and interviewed, (The cards are filed in order of the code number on the national identity card.)

If after making repeated calls the interviewer was unable to find the mother at home a name was taken from a substitute list, drawn up in the same manner, and the mother of that child was interviewed instead. 24% of interviews were made with the mothers of children whose names were taken from substitute lists.

Information relating to children was obtained about the particular child selected from the register, and the mothers of the children were regarded as a sample of mothers.

The two populations about which information was wanted, children and mothers, do not of course exactly correspond, many mothers having more than one child. However bias in favour of mothers with large families which might be introduced into the sample of mothers as a result of using this method of sampling was not considered to be of sufficient importance to invalidate the method. No list or register of mothers was available and the procedure adopted seemed to be the only practical one.


(2) Analyses

Some analyses of the sample are given below. Some of these are not strictly relevant to the purpose of the inquiry but have been included as they may be of interest.

Region No. %
North 867 33
Midlands & Wales 672 26
South & East 661 26
London 384 15
TOTAL 2584 100
Type of Area No. %
Large towns * 1081 42
Small towns 979 38
Rural areas 524 20
TOTAL 2584 100

* Population over 80,000

Age and Sex of Children

Age Boys Girls Total
No. % No. % No. %
Under 1 year 134 10 42 92 7 43 226 9 43
1 year 104 8 106 8 210 8
2 years 109 8 132 10 241 9
3 years 102 8 120 10 222 9
4 years 100 8 105 8 205 8
5 years 105 8 31 107 8 28 212 8 29
6 - 7 years 166 13 150 12 216 12
8 - 9 years 126 10 102 8 228 9
10 - 11 years 106 8 27 111 9 29 217 8 28
12 - 13 years 112 8 112 9 224 9
14 - 15 years 151 11 132 11 283 9
TOTAL 1315 100 1269 100 2584 100

The proportions of children aged from 0 to 5 years are probably rather higher than they should be. A possible reason for this was noted in the introduction.

Age of Mother No. %
Under 25 years 182 17
25 to 29 years 499 19
30 to 34 years 659 25
35 to 39 years 608 24
40 to 44 years 404 16
45 years and over 229 9
Unclassified 3 -
Total 2584 100
Number of children aged under 16 per mother
No. %
One 920 26
Two 820 32
Three 475 18
Four 187 7
Five or more 180 7
No information 2 -
TOTAL 2584 100
Education of Mother No. %
Elementary only 2107 82
Some higher education 465 18
No information 12 -
Total 2584 100

Economic Group

Economic group was classified according to the wage rate or salary of the chief wage earner in the family or according to income received from other sources if there was no wage earner.

Group No. %
Lower Up to £3 per week 549 21
Over £3 to £4 per week 568 22
Middle Over £4 to £5. 10s. per week 1043 41
Higher Over £5. 10s. £10 per week 315 12
Over £10 per week 84 3
No information 25 1
TOTAL 2584 100

Economic Group by Education

Education of Mother Economic Group
Higher Middle Lower
No. % No. % No. %
Elementary only 157 40 929 88 1002 89
Some higher education 241 60 109 11 109 10
No information 1 5 1 6 7
TOTAL 399 100 1043 100 1117 100
Information about husband
(the fathers of children aged under 16)
No. %
Husband living at home 1740 68
Husband away from home 676 26
Husband dead, divorced or separated 163 6
No information 5 -
TOTAL 2584 100
Whether Mother was Working
No. %
Working full-time 187 7
Working part-time 214 8
Not working 2174 84
No information 9 1
TOTAL 2584 100

Since mothers who are out at work are more difficult to contact than others, some working mothers may have been missed and substitutes interviewed instead of them.

Do you use a Welfare Clinic?
No. %
Yes, regularly 411 16
Yes, occasionally 355 14
Need to use one 882 34
No (never have) 935 36
No information 1 -
TOTAL 2584 100
Have you ever been present at a School Medical Examination?
No. %
Yes 1252 48
No 1332 52
TOAL 2584 100

(3) Areas in which interviews were made

North Midlands & Wales South & East London
Gateshead C.B. Nottingham C.B. Cromer U.D. Stepney Met. B.
Whickham U.D. Market Harborough U.D. Hitchin U.D. Bermondsey Met. B.
Stanley U.D. Worksop M.B. Newmarket U.D. Kensington Met. B.
Stockton R.D. Market Harborough R.D. Erpingham R.D. Staines U.D.
Sheffield C.B. Worksop R.D. Hitchin R.D. Surbiton M.B.
Wakefield C.B. Bingham R.D. Newmarket R.D. Wood Green M.B.
Skipton U.D. Birmingham C.B. Alton U.D. Battersea Met. B.
Skipton R.D. Hereford M.B. Aylesbury M.B.
Liverpool C.B. Sutton Coldfield M.B. Alton R.D.
Salford C.B. Tamworth M.B. Aylesbury R.D.
Warrington, C.B. Hereford R.D. Bristol C.B.
Darwen M.B. Swansea C.B. Crediton U.D.
Bury and Tottington U.D. Abertillery U.D. Crediton R.D.
Neath R.D. Eastbourne C.B.
Sandbach U.D. Pontypool R.D. Ashford U.D.
Warrington R.D. Hailsham R.D.
Congleton R.D.


SAMPLING INSTRUCTIONS (Given to Investigators)

We are interviewing mothers of children aged under 16 and the sample will be selected from the National Registration Cards. The Registration Officers have been informed that you are coming and that you will need to have access to the register.

Registration cards for children under 16 are filed in separate boxes from the cards for adults, and you will select a sample of children from these cards and go and interview the mothers of these children.

The method of selecting the sample is similar to that used in the Health Index inquiry of which some of you have had experience.


The Main Sample

When you have made sure which boxes contain the cards for children under 16:-

  1. (1) Measure all blocks of cards in these boxes and record the result in inches. When a tray is not completely full, bring sufficient pressure to bear to make the cards into a solid block before measuring.

  2. (2) Divide the number of inches by the number in your quota, e. g. if the cards measure 210 inches and your quota is 50, divide 210 by 50 210 x 50 = 4 (and 10 over, which can be ignored).

  3. (3) Beginning at the front of the first box, in the example above you would measure four inches along the cards, extract the card nearest to the spot reached, and record the name (including Christian names) and address of the child recorded on that card. Go on extracting cards at four inch intervals until you reach the end of the register. The mothers of the children so selected, form your sample of informants.


As you may not succeed in finding the informants on your main list at home, it will be necessary to make a list of substitutes. This should be one third the size of the main sample, and should be selected by the same method.

To do this multiply your original sampling measurement by three, e.g. in the example above 4 x 3 = 12.

You then need to take cards twelve inches apart, but in order to avoid the cards you have already selected for the main sample, begin an inch from the beginning of the first box. (If the distance between the cards for the main sample is less than an inch, begin nearer the front.)

Use of Substitutes

Substitutes should only be used when informants selected for the main sample cannot be found. If the original informant is out, you should call back at least once before taking a substitute. The substitute taken can be the one on the list living nearest to the original informant.

(In rural areas it may not be practicable to call back, and you may take a substitute after calling on the original informant only once if this is necessary).

Mixed Cards

In some National Registration Offices, Urban and Rural Cards are mixed. When this happens find out first of all how many cards there are for the Urban District, and how many for the Rural District. They may be 15,000 cards in the Urban District and 10,000 in the Rural District. This means that whatever number of cards you take out, 3 Cards out of 5 will be Urban cards, so that if you have an Urban quote of 100, you will find only 60. As you know that 3 cards out of 5 will be Urban, however, you can obtain the quota you want by treating it as 3/5 of the total number of cards you have to select from the register. 100 is 3/5 of 166. You, therefore, obtain your required quote of 100 Urban interviews by taking 166 cards from the register.


As rural districts generally cover a wide area we want to reduce travelling by selecting informants in particular parishes only.

If you have a quota in a rural district you should do as follows.

  1. (1) Multiply your quota by 4, e.g. if you have 40 interviews in a rural district 40 x 4 = 160.

  2. (2) Select this number (160 in the example) of cards, using the same method as for urban areas. Write down the name and postal address of the child on the cards selected, and send this list to Mr. Thomas, who will select a sample and substitute list of the appropriate size for you.

  3. (3) If the Urban and Rural cards are mixed, proceed as described above in urban areas, e.g. if out of a total of 15,000 cards, 10,000 are rural, then two out of five cards will be rural. If your quota, multiplied by four, is 160, you will know that 160 is two fifths of the total number of cards you will have to select. 160 is two fifths of 400. You then divide the total number of inches of cards by 400, and extract cards at intervals of so many inches, writing down only the names on the rural cards selected.

  4. (4) If you have quotas for both the urban and. rural district and the cards, are mixed, first select your rural sample (x 4) as described, and then select the urban sample. It will be simpler to select them separately than to try and do them both at once.



  1. (1) Please be sure to record the Christian names of the children selected as some questions are to be asked with reference to these particular children.

  2. (2) When selecting cards the pink “Permanent Debit” cards should be ignored. They are to do with the replacement of identity cards and are duplicated elsewhere.

  3. (3) If there is a separate file of persons aged under 16 who have entered the district since the last re-registration, this should be included in your measurements.

  4. (4) You should make quite sure which of the addresses on a card is most recent. Their arrangement is sometimes confusing owing to alteration in the layout of the card.

Interviewers working in Sheffield, Liverpool, and Birmingham, will be given special instructions about sampling by postal districts by Mr. Thomas.

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