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Changing demographic and cultural characteristics

Changing demographic and cultural characteristics

Human factors can have an impact upon the character of places. Two of these are demographic and cultural factors.

Demographic characteristics relate to the nature of a population and includes things such as the income, gender balance, ethnicity and age. These can be examined using census data and population pyramids. Source – ONS2

Population Pyramids

The population pyramids above give a useful break down of the populations of the UK, Newcastle upon Tyne (a large city in the North East of the UK of which my school explores Heaton and Byker wards for our Near place) and Allerdale district (within which is Keswick, which my school uses for its “far” place). It is clear from the pyramids that Newcastle and Allerdale have very different demographic profiles. Allerdale has a much older profile with high percentages of its population in the over 65 age categories. Newcastle upon Tyne is the contrary, with a huge spike in the number of 18 to 40 year-old people reflecting its status as a university city and as a place of work. This has knock on demographic consequences as the high number of working age people means there are more children too. Keswick is even older than Allerdale, the district it is in. Keswick has far fewer people living in it too (c. 5,000) than Newcastle upon Tyne.

Keswick Population Pyramid

Source: ONS and Cumbria Observatory3

This has an impact on the character of Keswick and Newcastle as places. Newcastle is a city that has many facilities aimed at a younger demographic such as schools, 2 universities, major student accommodation. Keswick is largely perceived and seen as an older population, with a high percentage of retirement migration. According to Councilor Paul Titely “The median age of the UK is 41, in Keswick it is 47 and this poses problems for the town. There is a deficit of kids despite having an excellent primary school. The secondary school is oversubscribed because it has a fantastic reputation. The student numbers are supplemented by kids being bussed in from other towns and it is a rarity in that it is a state funded boarding school. The success of the school drags the better students from schools in other towns like Workington, so has a negative effect there.”


ABOVE - New buildings going up for Newcastle University at the city center Helix development. The young demographic and money generated by the universities is changing the built character of the city.


Culture can be defined as a collaboration of shared meanings or common beliefs among a society’s or organisation’s members. There are several key features of a culture including a sense of self or space; communication and language; dress and appearance; food and feeding habits; time and time consciousness, whether by time or age or status; relationships; values and norms defined by cultural needs; beliefs and attitudes; mental processing and work habits and practices.1     Different cultures can exist in places as multi-cultural societies, and British cities are often good examples of this. In Newcastle upon Tyne, the areas around the West Road have had the largest influx of migrant groups and hence have the widest variety of shops available catering for different cultural needs. Cultures, like places, are not static, and change over time. Within you place studies, you could explore the census data for this for change over time and contrasting places; or use a Geographic Information System (GIS) like CDRC maps to explore cultural patterns for your chosen locations. For my students, we examine Keswick, a small town of just over 5,000 people at the North of the Lake District National Park, as out distance place. Our near or local place encompasses 4 census wards of Newcastle upon Tyne, Dene, Heaton (North and South) and Byker. The census from 2011 is a good source of demographic data. Here you can see that Newcastle upon Tyne’s 4 census wards are far more ethnically diverse than that of Keswick. However, both are not as ethnically diverse as the UK.

Census graph

The data is also now old – a new census is due in 2021, how will things have changed now? What impact will this have had on these places? Newcastle’s greater job opportunities and Universities probable account for the greater ethnic mix, but further study would be warranted.

CDRC maps


NEXT TOPIC - Economic change and social inequalities.



1 - Paul J. Colbert, 2010 - Developing A Culturally Responsive Classroom Collaborative Of Faculty, Students, And Institution. Contemporary Issues In Education Research – September 2010 Volume 3, Number 917. Accessed the 14th of May 2020 at

2 – ONS (2020) UK population pyramid interactive. Accessed 14th May 2020 at

3 – Cumbria Observatory (2020) Keswick ward profile. Accessed 14th May 2020 at

4 – Consumer Data Research Centre (2020), accessed the 18th of May 2020 at



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