By Dr Laura Davison, Head of Research at the Economic Development Office, City of London Corporation
Everyone knows that Father Christmas has a momentous task on Christmas Eve – delivering presents to good children across the world. One (not entirely serious) calculation puts this at 822.6 visits per second, assuming he visits 91.8 million homes worldwide across a 31 hour period (allowing for the earth’s rotation).
With a challenge of such size – how would Father Christmas tackle London? And where might he turn for information, to help him understand the nature of the task facing him, and London’s distinctive demography?
First, let’s assume that Father Christmas only visits homes where at least one child believes in him. An American poll found that 84% of adults had believed in Father Christmas as a child, and that the average age they stopped believing was 8.8. Psychologist Jacqueline Woolley - renowned for her research into the nature of children’s understanding of the fantasy / reality distinction - found that by nine, the majority of children no longer believed in Santa Claus.
Does London have a lot of 0 – 9 year olds? The ONS have a handy custom age tool, available via the London Datastore that lets you pull out different age ranges for boroughs in London. There are nearly 1.2 million children in this age range – 13.8% of the population. This is a little higher than the proportion across the UK as a whole – 12.3%. In fact, 15% of the UK’s 0 – 9 year olds live in London, so Santa has his work cut out!
There is, of course a huge variation in the number of these children per borough. The City of London has a mere 712 – whereas at the top end, Croydon, Barnet, Newham and Ealing, all top 50,000 (taking over a minute apiece to visit, at 822 visits per second!). As the borough mapper shows, the outer London boroughs are also generally more concentrated in terms of the proportion of the population that are children (here aged 0 – 15).
But have all these children been naughty or nice – and will Santa be safe leaving his sleigh unattended while quaffing brandy and eating mince pies? There’s a range of different data Santa might find interesting here – the Metropolitan Police report crime data, across a range of categories – he might feel much safer leaving the reindeers in Kingston (616 thefts from a motor vehicle in 2012/13) than Ealing (3063), but tread particularly carefully around Westminster and Lambeth (topping the ‘assault with injury’ stakes).
Or he might like something visual – like the Datastore’s Wellbeing map, which lets you weight different types or scores – in the example here, I’ve weighted it strongly towards education (unauthorised pupil absence, educational attendance), and moderately towards safety (crime rate and deliberate fires).
Finally – and sticking with the visualisations – Father Christmas might want to know a bit more about the type of buildings he is visiting. Will he be able to get down the chimney, or is he about to be faced with large blocks of confusing flats? The UK data explorer lets you look at all different kinds of Census data plotted at a ward level– here, for example, he can see a very high density of purpose built blocks of flats in central London.
So there are quite a few useful sites that would help him understand how he might want to approach the London deliveries – or help you picture what London looks like in different ways. Of course, all of this is somewhat academic, as the approach referenced at the beginning that calculated his necessary delivery speeds - also calculates that his reindeer will spontaneously combust from the air resistance, while Santa is crushed by centrifugal forces…
Happy Christmas all!