Our plans for small area statistics – consulting on Data Zones and Intermediate Zones

January 26, 2024 by No Comments | Category Census, Geography

The publication of statistics at a local level is important so that citizens and policy makers can make better informed decisions about their local communities. To support the production of small area statistics it is vital that we have solid statistical foundations in place.  

In Scotland, the statistical building blocks we use are Data Zones (DZs) and Intermediate Zones (IZs). This blog post explains how we use DZs and IZs in our statistics, and outlines our plans to update them following the release of Census 2022 population data.  

What are Data Zones and Intermediate Zones?  

The geographical building blocks for small area statistics in Scotland are Data Zones and Intermediate Zones. These are the small geographical regions we use to publish statistics at a granular level in a standardised way. Data Zones are built using aggregates of Census Output Areas. Output Areas are the smallest geographical unit used to publish census population data, and break Scotland into areas comprised of around 55 households.  

Data Zones are combinations of Output Areas that have roughly standard populations of 500 to 1,000 household residents. They are large enough to present statistics without fear of disclosure. They are also small enough that they represent communities. Following the 2011 Census, we created the existing set of 6,976 Data Zones that cover the whole of Scotland.  

Intermediate Zones are aggregations of Data Zones. They have standard populations of between 2,500 and 6000 households. 

Why are Data Zones and Intermediate Zones important?  

Data Zones and Intermediate Zones are important because they allow us to publish statistics at a granular level. This allows citizens and policy makers to make informed decisions about their local communities, including funding decisions and policy interventions.  

Aggregations of data zones are also used to approximate higher-level geographies that statistics wouldn’t normally be available for. Data Zones represent a stable geography that can be used to analyse change over time, with changes only occurring after a Census. DZs and IZs are also built with local input so that they are most useful to users. 

Our plans to consult  

With the publication of 2022 Census data, we now plan to update our small area geographies so that they are based on the most accurate and up-to-date population data.  

The first publication of Census data at Output Area level is scheduled for Spring 2024. Once this data is available, we will be able to begin developing our proposals for updated DZs and IZs.  

Given the important role that Data Zones and Intermediate Zones play in our statistics, it is important that we consult widely to ensure they make sense to our users, and to ensure that we incorporate local knowledge into their design. For that reason, we plan to run a full consultation on the new Data Zones and Intermediate Zones in 2024.  

Our plan is to launch a full public consultation in summer 2024, with the consultation open for 3 months. We then plan to publish finalised Data Zones and Intermediate Zones in Autumn of 2024.  

We will announce more detailed timings for the consultation in due course. You can look out for further updates on this blog, or by subscribing to our ScotStat email notification service. 

 If you have any questions please contact


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