Linking Armed Forces Leavers to 2011 Census

Main Article Content

Lynda Cooper
Rose Elliot


The aim of this project was to meet a user need for more data on those who have served, and now left, the UK armed forces (service leavers) to support commitments under the Armed Forces Covenant. We explored the feasibility of linking the Veteran Leavers Database (VLD) held by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to 2011 Census data held by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA).

Objectives and Approach
The Census for England, Wales and Northern Ireland consisted of a total number of 56 million records. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) provided the Veteran Leavers Database (VLD) which contained two million records of individuals who have left the armed forces since 1971.

Postcode information was not available for this linkage, therefore a bespoke set of matchkeys was created and clerical review was carried out to determine the best set of recommended matchkeys. The linkage was carried out within the secure linkage environment using pseudonymised data to protect the identities of individuals within these datasets.

53% of all VLD records linked to a Census record on one of the recommended matchkeys.

Further quality analysis was carried out on the linkage rates by different years of exit which showed that, after 1975, the rate of matched records improved the closer the VLD entry was to Census year.

Conclusion / Implications
ONS have concluded that whilst there is value in the administrative datasets on service leavers, it only partially meets the user need. A census question has been developed and tested on service leavers and it has been concluded that such a question will work. ONS therefore now intending to recommend inclusion of this topic in the 2021 Census.

Article Details

How to Cite
Cooper, L. and Elliot, R. (2020) “Linking Armed Forces Leavers to 2011 Census”, International Journal of Population Data Science, 5(5). doi: 10.23889/ijpds.v5i5.1510.