Tower Hamlets, Bradford and Breckland: how ethnic inequality is changing

Runnymede report finds that ethnic inequalities are widespread throughout England and Wales.

Runnymede report finds that ethnic inequalities are widespread throughout England and Wales

New research published yesterday by the Runnymede Trust shines a disturbing light on the way that racism now manifests itself in the UK.

Comparing local ethnic inequalities in 2001 and 2011, the report found that ethnic inequalities are ‘widespread’ in England and Wales, and that the problem is persistent.

This is based on indicators in health, education, unemployment and housing.

The inequality that the report finds is of a much more subtle nature than that which many people would commonly regard as racism. 

The Runnymede report found that inequalities existed not only in diverse and deprived areas like Tower Hamlets, but also in more affluent rural areas like Breckland in Norfolk.

Tower Hamlets, a borough in east London, ranks as the seventh most deprived district in England against the 2010 Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD).

It is also an area with a very high level of ethnic diversity; in 2011, around 69 per cent of its population group other than White British. This makes it the fifth most ethnically diverse area in England and Wales.

There is a lot of variation between the experiences of different non-White British ethnic groups. So while Tower Hamlets ranked as the worst district in England and Wales in 2011 for Asian inequality, inequalities for most other ethnic groups had improved between 2001 and 2011.

The study found that:

“The most severe ethnic inequalities in Tower Hamlets were in terms of housing with nearly half (48 per cent) of Asian households and 43 per cent of households from ethnic minority groups as a whole being overcrowded compared with a quarter (24 per cent) of White British households.”

Some districts showed improvement. The Yorkshire town of Bradford – which has more Pakistani residents than anywhere else in England and Wales and where 27 per cent of the total population in 2011 was Asian – was the fifth most unequal district for minority populations in 2001.

In 2011 it ranked 22nd; still, in 2011 ethnic minorities in Bradford were three times more likely to be living in overcrowded housing than the White British population.

In rural Breckland, the minority population increased by four per cent between 2001 and 2011, with a high level of immigration from EU countries.

During this decade, ethnic inequalities between the White British group and ethnic minorities widened on all indicators. For example, in 2011, 23 per cent of 16-24 year olds from ethnic minorities and 26 per cent of those from the White Other group had no qualifications, compared to just 13 per cent of the White British group.

As well as poor education and overcrowded housing, the inequality identified by Runnymede can manifest itself as high levels of unemployment or part time work.

It can also show as high levels of economic activity due to increased prevalence of limiting long term illnesses. The relationship between health problems and social deprivation is, as the study says, well documented.

Runnymede’s report highlights the way that racial discrimination is becoming more subtle and harder to recognise. These are ‘invisible’ problems, as it were: they don’t involve verbal or physical abuse or enforced segregation.

British Future’s recent report on attitudes towards immigration says that there is ‘a broad consensus that Britain is a significantly less racist society today, a view also held by most ethnic minority Britons’.

Yet the same report points out that ‘one in ten of our fellow citizens expresses support for biological racism and different levels of intelligence between the races’.

This leads to the unsettling conclusion that in many cases, neither the victims nor the perpetrators of institutionalised discrimination are aware of what is taking place.

Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter

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