Monday, January 19, 2009

Mixed Ethnicity Families in Britain   posted by DavidB @ 1/19/2009 03:53:00 AM

Several press reports over the weekend and today in Britain have mentioned a new report on mixed ethnicity (or mixed race) families in Britain. The headline finding is that about 1 in 10 children are in mixed-ethnicity families. To be (slightly) more precise, 9 per cent of children are themselves of mixed ethnicity and/or living in families of mixed ethnicity. The report is credited to Lucinda Platt of the Institute for Social and Economic Research. The headline figure sounded on the high side to me, so I wanted to track down the report itself. As there was nothing about it on the website of the ISER I was beginning to suspect an odorous rodent, but I finally found a link to the text on the website of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which sponsored the research. A copy can be downloaded here. I have only skimmed it, but the most relevant findings seem to be at pages 39-40. On a quick read I don't see any obvious flaw in the methods (such as double-counting), but at first sight there is one important area of uncertainty. The list of ethnic groups includes 'Other White', i.e. other than 'White British'. 'Other White' accounts for about 5 per cent of the population, and it is reaonable to assume that a large proportion - probably a majority [this is not correct: see Addendum below] - of them will be in mixed families with 'White British'. If these are counted among 'mixed ethnicity' families, they could account for up to half of the '1 in 10' headline figure, which is perhaps not quite what the headline writers had in mind. Perhaps a closer reading will clarify this. Kudos to the first reader to find the answer.

Addendum: On a slightly closer reading, I find I was wrong to assume that a majority of 'Other White' would be in families with 'White British'. Of those 'Other White' adults who are in partnerships, only about 1 in 3 such partnerships are 'mixed' (see pages 24-30). However, it does seem (unless I have missed something) that the 'headline' figure for children in 'mixed ethnicity' families would include 'White British - Other White' families. It also appears possible that 'mixed ethnicity' would include, say, 'Black Caribbean - Black African' or 'Indian - Pakistani'. If so, it seems distinctly misleading for the author to equate 'inter-ethnic' and 'mixed-race' (page 3 and elsewhere).