Ethnic Segregation in Britain: Spin or Substance?

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There is a common belief that in Britain the different ethnic groups are becoming increasingly concentrated into different geographical districts, as ‘white flight’ reduces the proportion of whites in inner city areas, while ethnic minorities cluster together. The Chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, Trevor Phillips, recently expressed the fear that Britain is ‘sleepwalking to segregation’.

Recent research casts doubt on such claims. The research is by sociologists at the University of Manchester under Dr Ludi Simpson. (Google on “Ludi Simpson” and “segregation” for numerous reports.)

Simpson’s own press release summary of the findings is as follows:

Our research suggests there is a lot of good news; in fact, there is more mixing. On balance there is neither retreat nor White flight. The larger populations of Black and Asian communities that have been highlighted are there simply due to natural growth; i.e. people having children. There are no Black or Asian ghettos anywhere in the UK where families of one colour are trapped. In all parts of Britain, the children of immigrants are moving away from so-called ghettos. After a couple of generations the mixing will be far more noticeable and the population growth of these groups will have slowed and probably stopped.

In a more detailed comment on the northern city of Bradford he says:

The broad picture that can be painted from these data is one of dispersal of a growing South Asian population from the inner city. This does not result in lower segregation because the inner city South Asian population is ‘re-filled’ by natural growth (more births than deaths) and by immigration; there is some movement of South Asian families into the housing of White populations who move from inner city areas. Thus the index of segregation for Bradford as a whole has been stable, but this stability is the balance between several different trends.

He adds that recently released data from the 2001 Census supports the Bradford findings for most areas of Britain.

These findings have been widely reported in the Press, generally without criticism or analysis. For example, according to the Guardian:

The study also says that immigration is not the reason for increased numbers of non-white Britons over the past decade, and that “white flight” from inner cities is another myth… The study says the increase in the number of non-white Britons is due to demographics rather than immigration. Ethnic minority populations are younger and have fewer elderly people than white communities. The number of Asian and black people is increasing because fewer die from old age and they have more women of childbearing age relative to white people. The author of the study, Ludi Simpson, said: “The common myth is that the growth of the ethnic minority population is due to immigration. That’s not true – it is more due to the growth of [ethnic minority] people born in Britain.”

In further press notes Simpson says ‘Fertility [of ethnic minorities] has reduced rapidly from the high levels associated with immigrant families. It is the youthfulness of immigrant workers and therefore their low mortality which has caused population growth, not high fertility, and not further immigration’.

This is interesting research, and it is useful as a corrective to unsupported myths. But it may create an equally misleading counter-myth. It is necessary to distinguish between the facts and the PC spin put on them.

The facts are that in inner city areas the proportion of ethnic minorities is increasing, while ethnic minorities are also spreading out into surrounding, previously all-white, areas. This pattern is almost inevitable because the ethnic minority population is growing. But even if the ethnic minority population were not growing, it is predictable that economically successful immigrants would wish to move away from poor quality urban environments, and into previously white suburbs and rural areas.

Whether the combined effect of these factors is regarded as increasing or reducing ‘segregation’ depends in part on how segregation is measured, which is not straightforward. (For some discussion of different measures see here.) But it is evident that by Ludi Simpson’s own chosen Index of Segregation there is no overall reduction in segregation. The growth of ethnic minorities in inner city areas increases segregation, while the dispersal into surrounding areas reduces it. The two factors roughly balance each other. Simpson’s own statement ‘This does not result in lower segregation’ could hardly be clearer. So if Simpson or others choose to headline the claim that ‘integration’ is increasing, this is giving only half the story.

I don’t claim to know whether ‘integration’ in any useful sense is increasing or not, but one test of this would be to look more closely at where the ‘dispersing’ ethnic minorities are going. Are they dispersing at random into the surrounding areas, or are they concentrating in more localised districts? For example, some of the outlying areas of Leicester are far more heavily Asianised than others. Some suburban schools in Leicester are now mainly Indian, and schools are a good indicator of the extent of practical integration or segregation. A recent study by Burgess, Wilson and Lupton found that ‘Looking at both schools and neighbourhoods, we find high levels of segregation for the different groups, along with considerable variation in segregation across England. We find consistently higher segregation for South Asian pupils than for Black pupils. The data also suggest that segregation tends to be lower for Black pupils where they are relatively numerous, but that no such attenuation exists for pupils of South Asian origin. Indeed, for these groups, segregation is higher where they are relatively numerous’.

There is nothing surprising about non-random dispersal of people with distinctive cultural and religious traditions. People will want access to appropriate places of worship, shops, etc. An important factor in directing dispersal to particular areas is the prevalence of Asian estate agents (realtors) serving mainly their own communities. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it would be nice to know the facts, and not just prattle about ‘integration’.

I was also intending to discuss the claim by Simpson that the main factor in the growth of the ethnic minorities is the age structure of their population, and not continuing immigration or higher fertility. But I will save that for another post.


  1. Speaking of white flight, check out this article: 
    The New White Flight

  2. The research is by sociologists at the University of Manchester under Dr Ludi Simpson 
    Can you really trust any “research” that comes from a sociologist?

  3. Well England is doing something right. Check out this article.  
    In United Kingdom, more Indians are getting the good jobs 
    LONDON: Indian youngsters are the most upwardly mobile in Britain today. Beating their white working class peers in the competition for well-paid jobs, 56 per cent of youngsters from Indian working class families take up professional or managerial roles once they become adults. This has emerged from a report funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and released on Monday. 
    The reason for this success, according to the report, is the encouragement they get from parents to do well at school. 
    The study tracked the employment of 140,000 people in England and Wales over a span of 30 years from 1960, using data from the Office for National Statistics. It found that children of immigrants from China, the Caribbean, and Africa are also zooming past white working class youngsters.  
    Part of the reason why Indian youngsters have performed so well is because migrants from India, who came in the 1950s and 1960s, came from middle-class backgrounds and were forced to suffer a step down in social class and employment status, says the report?s author, Lucinda Platt of the University of Essex. That drove them to make sure their children were educated well so that they had more opportunities. 
    But the report showed that children of Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities are not doing as well. 
    ?My study has shown that Indian parents set great store by good education,? said Platt. They often push to ensure their children get quality education, even at the cost of their own pleasures, and eventually reap the joy of their securing high-paying jobs. 
    Platt adds: ?The trend also reflects that there is more room at the top in modern Britain due to a general expansion of professional and managerial roles, but social class continues to play a significant role in most people?s chances in the employment market.? 
    The report found that Jews and Hindus had a greater chance of upward mobility than Christians, Muslims, and Sikhs. The 2001 census had shown that one in every eight students belongs to an ethnic minority. This figure is expected to rise to about one in five by 2010.

  4. Beating their white working class peers in the competition for well-paid jobs 
    More evidence that immigration works against the native population.

    More evidence that immigration works against the native population.
    shouldn’t be the working class native population? i am open to critiques of immigration of all sorts, but let’s remember that this isn’t VDARE, and you should be careful to be precise in what you say, you aren’t amongst a gaggle of fellow travellers. and to Pismire, ethnic boosterism is in my eyes unseemly. you may differ, but i had to make that clear as regards what i feel are the bounds of good taste. we shouldn’t be surprised at directed hostility against group X when it loudly and proudly proclaims how it is winning the race against the majority.

  6. Okay fair enough. But honestly it wasnt coming from there. I was just thinking of Paris burning, and pointing out (perhaps?) an English difference? 
    A large number of UK Hindus are East African exiles who were successful to begin with, so that might help explain some of the “winning”.

  7. shouldn’t be the working class native population? 
    But you agree that it works against the interests of the working class native population?

  8. Interesting point about the “East African exiles”: presumably the Muslims among them have done well too?

  9. But you agree that it works against the interests of the working class native population? 
    if you want to me to comment in the case of england, i would have to assume it was a wash for the working class, but i don’t know. remember, the white working class far outnumbers the non-white working class. unlike the USofA i don’t get the impression that the non-white working class is particular employed vis-a-vi the white working class (contrast with latinos vs. whites & blacks in USofA of cognate SES). the promotion of non-white indians from working to middle class is possibly a regression back to their parental home country mean after a generation of acculturation, in other words, there isn’t much ‘competition’ with the white working class in this case because their parents might have brought a lot of social capital which couldn’t be leveraged in generation 1 in the first place. getting a quantitative handle on these issues is important for me in their specific context, qualitative general assertions are the seeds upon with fruitless rhetorical debates that turn on normative differences are built. if that was too verbose and qualified for you, this weblog is not your cup of tea. if you think all immigration is negative, you shouldn’t be reading this weblog for sure, because it wouldn’t be around if it weren’t for immigration. 
    and re: pismire, yes, i think the quality of the immigrants matters, i don’t think it is a difference of the english vs. french policies. note that ismaili muslims from places like uganda do just as well as their hindu fellows.

  10. presumably the Muslims among them have done well too? 
    yes, i understand that a disproportionate number from uganda are ismaili muslims.

  11. presumably the Muslims among them have done well too? 
    Most definitely. The Ismailis have done well both in the UK and Canada. 
    MJ Vassanji (himself Ismaili) is a novelist who explores the East African Indian community. He is twice the winner of the Giller Prize, the Booker of Canada.

  12. Previous reports said Sikhs were as successful as Hindus in Britain. Muslims were failing economically because of the refusal to integrate. This report suggests class difference is the cause of Muslim poverty and economic backwardness.

  13. It seems to me that an obvious (in other words, I’ve not really thought too much about what I’m about to say) method of measuring integration is to look at the rate of inter-ethnic marriages (formal or common law). 
    The idea being that the higher the rate of marriage outside of a group, the more that group could be said to be melting into the melting pot. 
    Not sure how to factor religion into it though (ie not being allowed to marry outside the religion).

  14. the sikh migration to the uk was predominantly working class. 
    if the predominant hindus are from east africa they were not working class.

  15. I don’t know any hard data on Sikhs in Britain, but I think they are doing OK economically. A lot of Sikhs came to work in the motor industry in the West Midlands, around Coventry and Wolverhampton. The other big concentration is in Slough, just west of London, where there is frequent (but seldom media-reported) trouble between Sikh, Hindu and Muslim youths.

  16. iznt slough where that slut dawn tinsley lives?

  17. Basing the integration and segregation of different ethnic groups on statistics from electoral wards is a very vague way of analysing the issue in my opinion, for although some parts of Britain might appear integrated on paper it?s hard to assess what the situation is like on a street to street basis. For example, according to this report Birmingham is becoming more integrated, but on a deeper analysis I believe you would find the contrary the case, as there was a race riot in city just over of month ago.

  18. “It seems to me that an obvious (in other words, I’ve not really thought too much about what I’m about to say) method of measuring integration is to look at the rate of inter-ethnic marriages (formal or common law). 
    The idea being that the higher the rate of marriage outside of a group, the more that group could be said to be melting into the melting pot.” 
    The black (mostly Caribbean)/white intermarriage rate in Britain is quite high, especially compares to the United States. I don’t know about the brown/white or brown/black rates, though to the extent that many of the browns are Muslim the rate is likely to be kept down.