Ex-Tory peer’s Pakistani/Bangladeshi smear ignores the evidence

Ex-Tory peer Baroness Flather’s assertion that Bangladeshi and Pakistani families have more children to chase benefits is baseless in evidence, reports Daniel Elton.

Former Tory peer Baroness Flather used the opportunity of the welfare reform bill’s second reading in the House of Lords to attack Pakistani and Bangladeshi families for having too many children.

Specifically, she lays the charge that they do so to claim more benefits.

The Daily Mail faithfully reports that she told the Lords:

“The minority communities in this country, particularly the Pakistanis and the Bangladeshis, have a very large number of children and the attraction is the large number of benefits that follow the child.

“Nobody likes to accept that, nobody likes to talk about it because it is supposed to be very politically incorrect.”

According to the BBC, she went on to compare Pakistani and Bangladeshi families unfavourably with Indians and Jews:

“Indians have fallen into the pattern here. They do not have large families because they are like the Jews of old. They want their children to be educated.

“This is the other problem – there is no emphasis on education in the Pakistani and Bangladeshi families.”

Not only does this ‘slice ’em and dice ’em’ analysis leave a bad taste in the mouth, but it also only has a loose relationship with any actually evidence.

First, although birthrates are higher among Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities, they are not so much higher as to assert there is a general culture of very large families.

As quoted in the Runnymede Trust’s “The future ageing of the ethnic minority population of England and Wales” report, research shows that the birthrate for Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities has fallen dramatically over recent decades, as Chart 15 shows.

TFR-trends-of-ethnic-minority-populations-1965-2006
Although birthrates among Pakistani and Bangladeshi families are still high enough to be of interest to the social scientist – almost 50 per cent higher than the Indian rate – by 2006 they were still both below 3.

This is far too close to the replacement rate of 2.1 – or the mythical 2.4 children that was deemed to be the ‘normal family’ for most of the immediate post-war period, to be described as some epidemic of large families among these communities.

According to the Flather thesis, one would expect the birthrates of these communities to rise. As they became more established in the country, they would get to know the benefits system better and therefore how to exploit it.

Yet the rate halved for Bangladeshi families over 25 years.

However, it is fair to say that birthrates are higher among these communities, and so it is an interesting question as to why. The idea that it is to chase benefits appears bizarre since according to 2006 research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation the UK tax and benefit system is slanted towards smaller families.

What seems more likely is that the contributing factors are level of income and female education – international research has shown that as both rise, birth rates fall. And while 34 per cent of Indian adults have undertaken higher education (See p.271 of this government report) compared to 28 per cent of white British, 18 per cent of Pakistanis have and 14 per cent of Bangladeshis have.

Meanwhile, although median household wealth for Indian and White British households is more than £200,000, it is only £97,000 for Pakistani and £15,000 for Bangladeshi households.

There is an argument that communities where a large proportion of mothers were born in that communities country-of-origin carry a higher birth rate, but since birth rates are have fallen in both Pakistan (2.5) and Bangladesh (2.3), this seems to be a decreasing factor.

20 Responses to “Ex-Tory peer’s Pakistani/Bangladeshi smear ignores the evidence”

  1. Anna Parker

    RT @sunny_hundal: Are Bangladeshi families having lots of kids to claim benefits, as peer said? No. RT @danielelton http://t.co/8rczD1L

  2. Elite Titles

    Ex-Tory peer's Pakistani/Bangladeshi smear ignores the evidence – Left Foot Forward #Lords http://t.co/ASb3Hdd

  3. ShowRacismtheRedCard

    Are Bangladeshi families having lots of kids to claim benefits, as peer said? No. RT @danielelton http://t.co/Al6Fkfb

  4. Runnymede Trust

    Runnymede research mentioned: RT @leftfootfwd: Ex-Tory peer’s Pakistani/Bangladeshi smear ignores the evidence http://t.co/2V8WmqD

  5. Mulatto Passer

    RT @leftfootfwd: Ex-Tory peer’s Pakistani/Bangladeshi smear ignores the evidence http://t.co/1SQGGs8 #EDL

  6. Iman Qureshi

    Runnymede research mentioned: RT @leftfootfwd: Ex-Tory peer’s Pakistani/Bangladeshi smear ignores the evidence http://t.co/2V8WmqD

  7. Samm

    RT @leftfootfwd: Ex-Tory peer’s Pakistani/Bangladeshi smear ignores the evidence http://t.co/1SQGGs8 #EDL

  8. David Michael

    Ex-Tory peer’s Pakistani/Bangladeshi smear ignores the evidence http://t.co/GzTEU2KB

  9. Tim Easton

    Are Bangladeshi families having lots of kids to claim benefits, as peer said? No. RT @danielelton http://t.co/Al6Fkfb

  10. paulstpancras

    Are Bangladeshi families having lots of kids to claim benefits, as peer said? No. RT @danielelton http://t.co/Al6Fkfb

  11. Rob Slack

    The data presented in the charts are 7 year moving averages; the values for 2005 are averages of the 7 years from 2002 to 2008. Such averages smooth out (hide) a lot of what is happening. They tend to remain high when rates fall and low when rates rise; they respond slowly to changes.

    It might be interesting to dis-aggregate the data; look at recent immigrants and older immigrant families (who will likely have been more influenced by UK culture and attitudes).

  12. Daniel Elton

    Hey Rob – when I was speaking to different experts before writing the piece, there sense was that the biggest factor in explaining birth rate was country of birth, and therefore there was a big drop from first to second generation – followed by level of female education and income ( although the three can be linked). I don’t have the disaggregated data, but given that birth rates are falling in Pakistan and Bangladesh, the long term trend seems plausible.

    I wouldn’t say smoothing out is hiding, as, for example, it gives a much clearer picture of what is happening to the Bangladeshi birth rate, for example. But either way – and I know you weren’t defending this – I think the data still puts the ‘x community has kids to get benefits’ line in the bin

  13. Joseph Rowntree Fdn.

    Ex-Tory peer’s Pakistani/Bangladeshi smear ignores the evidence http://t.co/qoxBvf6L via @leftfootfwd

  14. Voice4Change England

    Ex-Tory peer’s Pakistani/Bangladeshi smear ignores the evidence http://t.co/qoxBvf6L via @leftfootfwd

  15. samina

    Baroness Flather:Pakistani/Bangladeshi smear ignores the evidence,has a loose relationship with any actually evidence. :http://t.co/BJA6HrCt

  16. Matt Cavanagh

    Excellent, evidence-based @leftfootfwd article on steadily *falling* birth rates in migrant & minority communities: http://t.co/1XDZVZfc.

  17. csignals

    Ex-Tory peer’s Pakistani/Bangladeshi smear ignores the evidence http://t.co/qoxBvf6L via @leftfootfwd

  18. Max

    If a bigamist has 4 wives each with 3 children, the statistics will show an average of 3 when in reality the man has 12 children. My own personal experience is that in city centers I often see Asian and Somali women with large numbers of children.

  19. Adam Coutts

    Do Pakistani & Bangladeshi families have more kids to exploit benefits? The evidence suggests not says @leftfootfwd http://t.co/zrfZNJC

  20. Matthew Smith

    Left Foot Forward answers Flather's claims about PK & 'Deshi birth rates in UK: http://t.co/wg1bIDeT – my response: http://t.co/XvwqrFB8

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