This month we will continue with our three-part report on the West Midlands by taking a closer look at the area to the west of Birmingham itself, including the Black Country and the city of Wolverhampton.
The area to the west of Birmingham comprises four of the seven boroughs of the West Midlands – Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton – with some but by no means all of this area being regarded as the Black Country. The region has a population of approximately 1.2m spread across large and small towns with the largest centres being the towns of West Bromwich (in Sandwell borough), Dudley and Walsall and the city of Wolverhampton.
The population of the region declined alongside the decline of its traditional heavy industries in the late 20th century. A report in the mid-2000s suggested the regional population was still declining by 4,000 annually. However, latest ONS projections suggest that the population here could rise moderately over the next 20 years to 2036. They suggest the Dudley population will grow from 317,000 to 338,000, the Sandwell population will grow from 322,000 to 378,000 and the Walsall population will grow from 277,000 to 313,000, while Wolverhampton will grow from 256,000 to 288,000 residents.
Parts of the Black Country have unemployment levels which are some of the highest in the country. Wolverhampton has a significant level of unemployment in the 16-24 age group. Wolverhampton and Sandwell rank in the top 20 most deprived areas in the UK, with Walsall at 35th, according to the Index of Multiple Deprivation published by the ONS. Dudley fares better ranking at 79th out of 152.