Friday, 8 July 2016

Where do minorities fare best? Ethnic inequalities across England and Wales

Kitty Lymperopoulou – University of Manchester and ESRC Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity

Nissa Finney – University of St Andrews and ESRC Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity

Ethnic minority groups in central London districts have, on average, 5 percent higher unemployment than their White British counterparts and 15 percent higher levels of overcrowding in housing. Within these districts ethnic inequalities are marked. Our analyses showed not only the extent of ethnic inequalities across England and Wales but that they are persistent over time and that they are greater in some parts of the country than others, and for some ethnic groups.

The disparity in the socio-economic position of ethnic minority and White British people has been a central and persistent feature of British society. Ethnic inequality has been well documented in studies for over 50 years: ethnic minority people have been found to fare worse than the White British across a range of employment, education, housing and health outcomes. What these studies have not shown is how the experiences of ethnic minority groups vary within and across localities. As well as demonstrating inequalities in diverse, urban areas, our study showed how they exist in rural areas with low ethnic minority concentrations. In 2011, in the rural hinterlands in England and Wales there were 5 percent more young adults from ethnic minority groups without any qualifications and 9 percent higher levels of overcrowding in housing.

Divergent experience of ethnic groups within areas raises questions about broader social processes of disadvantage and exclusion. For example, are services in an area addressing the needs of some groups better than others? Is racism and discrimination more prevalent in some areas than others? Are there places that are operating in such a way that no ethnic group is particularly advantaged and disadvantaged?

Our analysis for this research used 2001 and 2011 Census data for districts of England and Wales. Census data is unique in enabling the study of ethnic groups for sub-national areas of the UK. We calculated inequalities between ethnic groups for indicators of education, employment, health and housing. To examine geographical variation in ethnic inequalities we made use of the 2011 Office for National Statistics area classification which groups districts on the basis of 59 demographic and socio-economic variables.

Inequalities in employment (difference in unemployment rates) between Black African and White British ethnic groups in districts of England and Wales, 2001 and 2011



Notes: Inequality scores are shown for districts with an ethnic minority population at risk of at least 100. Districts are mapped as cartograms which depict them approximately proportional to their population size. Employment inequality is measured as the the percentage point difference in the proportion of the Black African group and the White British group in those aged 25 or above who are unemployed. Hatched areas (positive score) indicate ethnic minority advantage in employment.

Ethnic inequalities were greatest and most widespread in employment and housing: most ethnic minority groups were disadvantaged on these indicators in 2001 and 2011 irrespective of where they lived, and this was particularly pronounced for the Black African group. This can be seen in the maps above: in 2011 people from the Black African group had higher levels of unemployment than White British people in most districts, particularly in urban areas located in London and northern England, reaching almost 30 percentage points higher unemployment in some areas. Over the decade 2001-2011 both the level and geographical spread of Black African employment inequality increased.

The experience of the White Other ethnic group is also notable and distinctive, in terms of high levels of inequality in education and housing, particularly in rural and coastal areas. This group is made up of a high proportion of recent immigrants from Europe (mainly from the EU Accession countries). The evidence of their disadvantage, and its geography, points to a need for policy to consider migrant integration, for addressing inequalities and in relation to social relations and cohesion more broadly.

But the story is not exclusively of ethnic minority disadvantage. In terms of education and (age standardised) health, ethnic minority groups in most districts experienced lower inequality in 2011 than in 2001 and fared better than the White British group in 2011.

This research provides new evidence of the extent and persistence of ethnic inequalities in England and Wales. We have suggested that processes relating to segregation and integration may provide some explanation alongside a mismatch between demand for, and provision of, local services and the impact of immigration. The results suggest there is a need for both national and local policy intervention; nationally to address ethnic minority disadvantage in employment and housing, and locally, for example provision in rural and coastal schools for young people in the White other ethnic group. As Britain grapples with its position within, or alongside, Europe, understanding the patterns and processes of inequalities is more pertinent than ever.

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