The Integration Hub pulls together much of the relevant publicly available information (including government data, academic research and analysis by companies, foundations and other think tanks) and presents it in an easily digestible form to help to improve the quality of the public conversation on integration. We have divided the data into five chapters: residency; work and welfare; society and everyday life; education; and attitudes and identity. The site includes links to other research, further reading lists, and a blog where anyone interested can join the debate. The idea is for The Integration Hub to be a living reference point for integration issues. It will change as our picture of integration changes.

Measuring ethnicity

Most of the ethnic categories we use in the Integration Hub are those employed by the Office of National Statistics in the 2011 census: ‘White British’, ‘Black African’, ‘Pakistani’, ‘Chinese’ and so on.

These categories are self-chosen and a small number of people change their self-categorisation over time. More significantly, the categories themselves have also changed over time which makes accurate comparisons over long periods difficult. Ethnic categories were not even used in the census until 1991; prior to that date estimates can only be made using information on respondent’s or parents’ country of birth. It was not until the 2001 census that people of mixed ethnic/racial heritage were included and in the same year the “white” category was sub-divided into ‘White British’, ‘White Irish’, ‘White Other’ and so on. Also in the 2001 census self-classification by religion was introduced for the first time.

There are many problems with the standard categories, perhaps above all the fact that they combine three different types of human categorisation: race (as in white or mixed race), ethnicity (as in ‘Chinese’, whether from China or elsewhere) and national origin (as in ‘Pakistani’ or ‘Bangladeshi’). Moreover there is no consensus on what constitutes a race or an ethnic group.

Some categories are too broad to be meaningful. This applies particularly to ‘Black African’ which could include countries from the Maghreb to South Africa, and peoples from Nigerians and Ghanaians in the west to Somalians and Ethiopians in the east.

There are some significant groups which do not get a separate census category of their own—such as Turks or Sri Lankans or Somalis—but there is an option to add your own classification and many people from smaller groups do so. ‘Arab’ was included as a separate category in 2011.

This is the standard method of measuring ethnicity and other major surveys, such as Understanding Society and the Labour Force Survey follow this approach. However, this is not always the case; some studies make use of more simple classifications and in such circumstances we are compelled to follow suit.


Welcome from Trevor Phillips

Welcome to The Integration Hub. However you define the idea of social diversity, most of us agree that there’s probably as much of it around as at any time in our history. Put more concretely, we live in a society where we are far more likely to meet someone very different to ourselves – whether in class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or some other identity characteristic – than at any time in our parents’ or grandparents’ generations. For some, the encounter with difference can be exhilarating. For others, it is unsettling. Each of us will probably experience both emotions to some degree at some point in our lives.

My own experience is that no dimension of diversity causes more uncertainty and unease than the relations between people of different races, cultures and faiths. Increasingly this is more than an academic or political phenomenon. Understanding the range of everyday behaviours characteristic of different ethnic and cultural groups is increasingly vital both to the individual citizen, to businesses and to bodies who carry out public policy, including government. And the lines of division have been demonstrated in the recent UK election, whether in the rise of regional/national identities, or the fact that, for visible minority voters, it appears that ethnic background remains the best predictor of political preference.

As our society continues to become more diverse, anything that makes those differences less opaque should increase our ability to get along with our neighbours, to work with our colleagues, and to serve all our citizens, clients and customers. Today we have access to more data than ever before, and some of the best researchers in the social sciences have turned their minds and energy to the topic of how we live together with difference.

This data has to be accessible and comprehensible. That is the purpose of this Integration Hub. We have brought together the most comprehensive collection of research and data on the topic of ethnic diversity ever developed in the UK and we intend to continuously update it as the story evolves. This is our contribution to ensuring that our new diversity promotes cooperation and prosperity rather than their opposites. We hope that you find it useful, whether you are a researcher, a policymaker, or simply an interested individual.

Introductory Essay by David Goodhart

Why are we interested in integration and how should we define it? The hub is not informed by a precise definition but sees convergence in life chances and to a lesser extent in lived experience between the largest ethnic groups as central to integration. This does not mean that everyone should be converging on the values or lifestyle norms set by the White British majority, in any case in contemporary society those norms vary widely. But it should be a cause for concern if certain groups are diverging too far, especially in the ‘harder’ quantifiable outcomes in economic life and education. And upward mobility for minorities is tougher if they are not connected to mainstream networks. More generally, collective action and the willingness to pool resources is easier when people share elements of a common culture, ascribe to some common norms and have a degree of mutual trust and familiarity across ethnic boundaries.

The integration hub is not just about the condition of Britain’s ethnic minorities. It is about how those minorities are interacting with the majority. Data cannot capture some of the most important, lived aspects of integration, though we describe what we know about peoples’ feelings in the chapter on attitudes and identity. Data may also conceal big differences. For example, quite a high proportion of households of South Asian ancestry speak a language other than English at home. In some cases this will mean a high degree of separation and little contact with mainstream British life, but in other cases it will signify a confidently integrated bi-lingual/bi-cultural life with an ancestral language spoken within the family but English spoken fluently at work and among White British friends.

It is important to remember that integration is not an all or nothing thing. Many individuals, even large groups, are well integrated at work or in the wider culture but may remain quite residentially segregated, resisting the classic pattern of moving out of the inner city and dispersing into the suburbs. There are spectrums of integration in all the different areas of economic and social life. There is also a complex relationship between integration and economic success. Some of the most integrated groups in terms of human relationships, such as British Caribbeans, are among the least successful minorities economically, and some highly successful British South Asians continue to live mainly monocultural lives.

Barriers to integration are broadly of three kinds: factors such as poor education, limited grasp of English and ignorance of cultural norms which generally fade with time; resistance to integration from the minority itself; resistance to integration from the majority. But integration is not something that just happens to people or groups. Different groups bring different attributes, cultural traits and strategies to the business of integration. Ceri Peach, one of the most eminent academics in the field has described an ‘Irish’ strategy which is essentially one of assimilation and a ‘Jewish’ strategy which is about combining upward mobility with strong retention of cultural traditions; successful South Asians have emulated the Jewish strategy.

This integration hub is politically neutral. We favour integration over segregation, but we acknowledge that both terms are slippery and contested and we remain open to debate with the integration sceptics. Even if integration is generally regarded as a happy medium between segregation and assimilation there are many people who remain suspicious of the idea and there are many different perspectives on it, both among the academics who study it and the various political and cultural groupings with an interest in it. One dispute is the extent to which integration is largely the responsibility of minorities themselves or ‘a two way process’ in which the majority too has an obligation to change in order to accommodate the new minorities. There is also dispute about the extent to which barriers to integration can be attributed to the indifference or hostility of the host society—often summed up in the phrase ‘white flight’—or the self-segregation choices and traditions of the minorities themselves. Sceptics tend to question what there is to integrate into, point to the equal or greater significance of social class segregation and prefer a multicultural stress on the formal recognition of difference to the more assimilationist overtones of integration.

Integration throws up some fundamental questions about how humans live. Are people (majorities and minorities alike) justified in wanting to live among their own? Is assimilation a good thing or a bad thing? Some analysts distinguish between good segregation and bad segregation. Bad segregation sees segregation as an end in itself while good segregation—or what Trevor Phillips has called ‘cultural protection’—is a temporary means to a more integrated end, it is about the support and mutual aid that may be necessary to launch oneself successfully into a new society.

Some degree of clustering is of course the norm, especially when minority groups reach a certain critical mass and where institutions—such as mosques, halal shops and madrasas for Muslims—draw a minority together. One of the great political/policy questions of our times is how much separation is compatible with an open and healthily mixed society.

It is a question that the British state has not been much interested in answering. Unlike France, Britain recognises the existence and significance of ethnic groups (which is why we have the numbers available to us that constitute the core of this website) but it has not on the whole regarded it as part of its role to promote ethnic mixing. The policy over recent decades has been one of benign laissez-faire rather than a more interventionist ‘integrationism’.

In a liberal society with a high stress on choice and personal freedom there are, in any case, strict limits on the extent to which integration can be imposed. In Britain there has never even been an official integration policy (except in a small way for refugees) or a minister for integration. The state has intervened to try to prevent discrimination but otherwise integration policy has existed only in speeches—from Roy Jenkins in 1966 to David Cameron in 2011. That changed in a small way after the 2001 race riots and 9/11 when Ted Cantle produced his report about ‘parallel lives’ in some northern towns and advocated a more activist ‘community cohesion’ policy. The New Labour government also emulated many other rich countries with significant immigrant inflows by introducing language and citizenship tests (and ceremonies) for new citizens.

But what occurs on the ground—which is what most concerns our hub—is only indirectly related to government policy. In some places laissez-faire has worked pretty well without much help from government. As a glance at the hub will confirm the British integration story is a varied one and for many people the motors of convergence are in good order. If integration is in part ‘how far and fast they are becoming like us’ (Shamit Saggar) then at least in the harder objective measures of educational and economic outcomes several ethnic minorities have swiftly reached and then outperformed the White British average. On the other hand certain other groups, including Pakistanis and Bangladeshis and some Black Africans, continue to lag behind and/or to live somewhat more separately. Moreover the scale and speed of immigration in recent years seems to have created more separation in housing and schooling in certain areas at least between the White British and most visible minorities (who are mixing more among themselves).

Some people feel uneasy about constant generalising on the basis of ethnicity. We are all individuals and many people slip free of their ethnic or class background. Nevertheless as the hub very clearly shows there are distinct patterns in the outcomes for different ethnic groups. We should discuss those ethnic patterns in the same spirit of scientific objectivity that we have long employed when discussing social class. It is true that race and ethnicity remain emotionally charged in a way that class rarely does but that is not an excuse for woolliness and evasion when studying them.

Having said that the ONS ethnicity categories we use—Chinese, Hindu Indian, White British, Bangladeshi and so on—are unavoidably crude and often conceal as much as they reveal. The category Black African for example includes many well educated Nigerians and Ghanaians who came to Britain, often as students, in the 1950s and 1960s and whose children have been relatively successful but it also includes many more recent incomers from different class and national backgrounds (such as people from Somalia or the Congo) who are less well equipped for swift convergence.

Getting the right balance on the integration of Britain’s ethnic minorities into mainstream British life is one of the most important public policy issues for the next generation. That is especially the case if we continue with the current historically high levels of immigration and if upheaval in the Islamic world continues to provide radical inspiration to some British-born Muslims.

Most people, whether from an ethnic minority or the White British ethnic majority, tend to feel conflicted about integration. On the one hand we understand that we are not just individuals, that we come from groups with particular ways of speaking and thinking and behaving, and often feel most at home among people like ourselves, especially when we are first in a strange country; on the other hand we also intuit that a good society cannot consist of many inward-looking tribes living separate lives with little mutual regard or common life.

Recent decades have seen significant advances in the openness of British society and the decline of overt discrimination against minorities but in other respects integration has become if anything more problematic: the greater liberalism and individualism of British society means there are fewer landmarks of shared allegiance to rally around, the scale and speed of recent immigration has significantly increased minority concentration in some areas making it easier to live separate from the mainstream, and greater choice in schools and other public services makes it less likely that people will have shared experiences of state services.

Nonetheless, many people, especially White British people, say they would be happy to live in more mixed communities than they actually do, which is one justification for politics and policy to attempt to nudge us closer together. Any effort to do that needs to be informed by clear thinking and reliable data, we hope this Integration Hub will contribute in both respects.

Contact Us

David Goodhart – Director

Email: david.goodhart@policyexchange.org.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)207 340 2650