• Of those living in couples, the groups who are highly likely to partner across ethnic boundaries are Black Caribbean men (48 per cent) and Chinese women (39.5 per cent). Among the least likely to do so are the White British (4 per cent), Bangladeshis (7 per cent) and Pakistanis (9 per cent). About half of all Pakistanis are married to someone from Pakistan. But younger people in general are more likely to partner outside their ethnic group.
  • Nearly 90 per cent of White British people have friendship circles that are more than half of the same ethnicity as them; for minorities this figure is 62 per cent. The evidence suggests this is holding constant in recent times. But ethnic minorities report more positive interactions with white people than vice versa.
  • More than a third of the ethnic minority population do not have English as a first language and around 9 per cent of schoolchildren come from homes where English is not the first language. Most South Asian households speak a South Asian language but the proportion is falling – in 1997 35 per cent of Indian households spoke English as their main language rising to 54 per cent in 2010; for Pakistani households the same figures are 15 and 45 per cent.
  • Different ethnic groups watch and read different things. More than 70 per cent of the White British population watch BBC One regularly compared with less than half of all the main South Asian groups. Minorities are more likely to get their news online, more likely to read broadsheet newspapers (in particular the Guardian), and more likely to use Facebook than the White British.
  • Black people are three times more likely to be arrested than whites and five times more likely to be in prison. About one in four prisoners is from an ethnic minority. For all indictable offences whites are significantly less likely to receive a custodial sentence (25.6 per cent) than blacks (31.3 per cent). Black people are six times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people (though only three times more likely in London).
  • South Asians are more likely to play football and cricket than any other group. Minorities are more likely to go to the gym (33 per cent) than White British people (27.9 per cent) and more likely to go running and almost as likely to go skiing as the White British.
  • Chinese people have the highest life expectancy and Pakistanis the lowest. White British people are more likely to smoke and to drink alcohol regularly (70.2 per cent) compared with minorities (58 per cent); Pakistanis are least likely to drink (12.8 per cent).


1. Marriage, relationships, family and friendships

About half of White British people have no non-white friends but the number is declining. Partnerships and marriages across ethnicities are increasing but only slowly for some groups, especially Muslims.

How ethnically mixed are relationships in Britain?

Nearly one in ten people who live as part of a couple in England and Wales are in a mixed ethnicity relationship (spouse or partner). Mixed ethnic relationships include relationships with members of the same ‘race’ – White British with White ‘Other’ or White Irish. The number in mixed ethnic relationships rose from 1.7 million to 2.3 million between 2001 and 2011, a change from 7 per cent to 9 per cent of the adult ‘coupled’ population (a somewhat slower rise than the overall rise in the ethnic minority population). As highlighted in our Residential Patterns chapter, the number of households of more than one occupant that were ethnically mixed in 2011 was around 2 million (12 per cent in England and Wales) compared with the 14 million households (61 per cent) that have the same ethnicity, the rest being single person households. In London, 20 per cent of households are ethnically mixed.

Britain’s mixed ethnic group grew from 1.3 per cent of the population in 2001 to 2.2 per cent (1.2m) in 2011, with the number of people of mixed ethnicities rising in almost all local authorities. According to the 2011 census 35 per cent of this group identify as White and Black Caribbean, 14 per cent as White and Black African, 28 per cent as white and Asian, while 24 per cent are some other combination of ethnicities.

Rates of inter-ethnic marriage differ significantly across ethnic groups. People of mixed or multiple ethnicities who are part of a couple are most likely to be in inter-ethnic relationships (85 per cent) as there is unlikely to be any particular affinity to mixedness itself. They are followed by the White Irish (71 per cent), Other Black (62 per cent) and Gypsy or Irish Travellers (50 per cent). Of the larger minorities Black Caribbeans who are in couples are likely to partner outside their ethnic group (43 per cent; men at 48.1 per cent, women at 36.6 per cent) as are the Chinese (31 per cent; men at 20.3 per cent and women at 39.5 per cent).

Those White British (4 per cent) and South Asians – Bangladeshis (7 per cent), Pakistanis (9 per cent) and Indians (12 per cent) – who are living in a relationship are least likely to be in mixed couples. The low rates may be explained because these groups have limited contact with those outside their ethnic group: the White British are part of a large group so are less likely to meet those from another ethnicity; many South Asians place significant value on the importance of tradition, family and religion in their lives.

However, young Bangladeshi and Pakistani men aged 16–24 are starting to marry (or cohabit) across ethnic boundaries in slightly higher numbers – of those who are married or cohabiting in that age group 26 per cent and 17 per cent respectively are with people of another ethnicity. Generally, younger cohorts are more likely to marry ‘out‘.


In the mid-2000s 10 per cent of Muslim men and 3 per cent of Muslim women were in inter-religious partnerships. Lucinda Platt has observed that younger Muslim women and those born in Britain do not show a significant increase in inter-religious partnerships compared to their mothers. By contrast, Hindu and Sikh women born in Britain are more likely than their mothers to marry outside their religion and ethnicity. Indeed, analysis of the census shows that while there had been absolute increases in the numbers of inter-ethnic partnerships for Pakistanis and Bangladeshis between 2001 and 2011, in proportionate terms the numbers had remained constant with men partnering ‘out’ slightly more than women.

The most popular combination of inter-ethnic marriage between 2001 and 2011 was between the White British and White Others at 16 per cent. However, the proportion of ‘coupled ‘White Others who were in mixed ethnic relationships dropped between 2001 and 2011 from 54 per cent to 39 per cent although there was an absolute rise from 355,000 to 465,000. This will be due to a large influx of already-married eastern Europeans, which has slightly depressed the overall proportion of inter-ethnic marriages, as shown in the graph above.

The most recent data we have on inter-ethnic partnership formation suggest that there has been little change since 2011. Analysis of Understanding Society from 2015 reveals that the share of people who are in inter-ethnic partnerships stands at 8.3 per cent, so no substantive change from 2011. Of the major ethnic groups, no statistically significant changes were observed between 2011 and 2015.

Inter-ethnic marriages are thought to be at higher risk of dissolution, but this assumption is contested. A 2012 ESRC study found that the risk of divorce for such partnerships was no longer disproportionately high once other factors – most notably age – were taken into account.

Transnational, arranged and forced marriage

Transnational marriages are common among some South Asian communities. Around half of all Muslim Pakistanis living in Britain married someone from Pakistan. Others have made higher estimates. In 2009 Ann Cryer, then MP for Keighley near Bradford, estimated that 80 per cent of Muslim marriages in the area were transnational. And according to the cohort study ‘Born in Bradford’ based at the Bradford Royal Infirmary, 80 per cent of Pakistani babies in the area have at least one parent born outside the UK and 63 per cent of Pakistani mothers are married to cousins. Such mothers are less likely to be educated and in employment than mothers of Pakistani descent who do not marry cousins.

Transnational marriage is not confined to British Pakistanis. In 2010, 40,495 visas for spouses and partners were granted; 16 per cent of these were Pakistani and 10 per cent were Indian. The other highly represented ethnicities were: US (6 per cent), Nepalese (5 per cent) and Bangladeshi and Thai (both 4 per cent), and Filipino, Turkish, Nigerian and South African (all 3 per cent). People from many other countries also come to the UK on spousal visas every year, each representing a small percentage of the total. In 2011 the Home Office found that 68 per cent of those coming to the UK on a spousal visa were female. Out of all family and dependents granted settlement in 2012, 63 per cent were for spouses (52,921).  Of these, there were more than twice as many wives (36,344) as husbands (16,577).

Katherine Charsley estimated in 2012 that around a quarter of British Indians married a person from India, and thought it likely that a higher proportion of Sikh Indians contribute to this figure than Hindus.1 Pakistanis and Bangladeshis coming to the UK on spousal visas were among the youngest on average at 24 years, while Afghans were the youngest with an average of 22 years.

Transnational marriage creates a ‘first generation in every generation’ issue, which is thought to make integration harder for those communities in which it is common. Marriage migration may be one reason why Pakistanis lag behind other ethnic groups on female employment. Charsley found that a woman’s birthplace (whether it was in Britain or abroad) has an impact on their employment prospects, but this is not the case for their partners.2 This is likely to be explained by the individual’s educational level and proficiency in English, rather than the fact of marriage migration per se.

About three-quarters of Pakistani and Bangladeshi women were married by the age of 25, compared with 67 per cent for Indians and 55 per cent for white women.3 In 2011 the mean age at marriage for all women in the UK was 34, and this figure is rising across ethnic groups. Delaying marriage has been a significant social change in recent years and South Asian women might follow this trend in due course. But it may be significant in the recent improvement in outcomes (especially in education) for Bangladeshis that transcontinental marriage is much rarer in that community than for Pakistanis (Bangladeshis being disproportionately London-based may also be a factor).

In 2005, Richard Berthoud found that the majority of South Asian women who came to Britain at the age of 11 or older had an arranged marriage but that this proportion was far lower for Hindus. When they were born in the UK or had come to Britain when they were younger than 10, just over a third of Muslim and Sikh respondents were in arranged marriages compared with only 9 per cent of Hindu marriages.4

Arranged and forced marriages are very different. The Home Affairs Committee defined forced marriage as ‘conducted without the valid consent of both people, where pressure or abuse is used’, emphasising, ‘It must be distinguished from an arranged marriage, where both parties fully and freely consent to the marriage, although their families take a leading role in the choice of partner.’ The Home Affairs Committee has stated that there are no reliable estimates of the extent of forced marriage in Britain, particularly as many victims do not report it.

Statistics on the number of forced marriages referred to the Forced Marriage Unit give us some insight into who is affected by this, although the total number of cases remains a mystery. In 2015, there were 1,220 such cases – down from 1,485 in 2012. Those cases tended to involve young people with 27 per cent relating to people under the age of 18. 22 per cent of cases involved people in London with 14 per cent in the West Midlands.

Forced marriages can be between two people, one from the UK and one from somewhere else, or between two people from within the UK. The country most-commonly linked to cases of forced migration was Pakistan: 44 per cent, while only 7 and 6 per cent related to Bangladesh and India respectively. 14 per cent of cases were intra-UK.

141 – 12 per cent – involved someone with a disability.

Family type and care within families

Ethnic groups vary considerably in family size. Pakistanis and Bangladeshis have considerably larger families than the White British. In 2011, birth rates for Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Black Africans were higher than those for both the White British and the national average. Indian rates were comparable while Black Caribbeans and Chinese people had lower rates. The birth rates of Bangladeshis and Pakistanis have dropped since the 1980s.

Birth rates and family size can differ because of single parenthood and the number of childless adults. Between 2004 and 2008, 16 per cent of White British families had four or more people, while 43 per cent of Pakistanis and 49 per cent of Bangladeshis had families of four or more; 28 per cent of Indians, 24 per cent of Black Africans, and 16 per cent of Black Caribbeans (the same as White British) had families of four or more. Chinese people generally report having smaller families; this possibly reflects the increase in Chinese immigration in recent years, with more and more people arriving from China where the one child policy is still in place.

The 2011 census showed that in 2011 in White British households where children were present, 52.3 per cent of the adults were married (or in same-sex civil partnerships), 15.8 per cent were cohabiting couples and 25.1 per cent were lone parent households. Some ethnic minority groups have higher levels of single-parent households relative to the White British, and some lower. Black Caribbean households with children are 47.4 per cent lone parent, mixed ethnicity 43.6 per cent, and Black African 38.1 per cent. By contrast, Indian households with children were just 8.7 per cent lone parent. Pakistani, Bangladeshi and White Other minorities also had low proportions of single-parent households.

A report of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) based on the Labour Force Survey (LFS) 2004–2008 found that 65 per cent of Black Caribbean children were growing up in lone parent families. The proportion of children in lone parent families was also high for the mixed White and Black Caribbean (51 per cent), Black African (47 per cent) and Other Black (47 per cent) groups. There were 23 per cent of White British children, 19 per cent of White Other children, 15 per cent of Pakistani and Chinese children, 14 per cent of Bangladeshi children and 10 per cent of Indian children growing up in lone parent families between 2004 and 2008.

The childcare choices of parents can determine opportunities for inter-ethnic contact for both children and parents. Black Caribbean and Black African parents are most likely to send their pre-school-age children to a formal care group (crèche, nurseries etc); this accounts for the care of around 30 per cent of Black Caribbean and 22 per cent of Black African 3-year-olds; 18 per cent of Indian and white 3-year-olds are in formal group care, with strikingly fewer families from Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds choosing this option. A high proportion (85 per cent) of 3-year-old Pakistanis are cared for by family members, as are 87 per cent of 3-year-old Bangladshis, 64 per cent of 3-year-old whites, 60 per cent of 3-year-old Indians, and 53 per cent of 3-year-old Black Africans. By contrast only 46 per cent of Black Caribbean 3-year-olds are cared for predominantly within the family. Research from Understanding Society has shown that ethnic minorities are much more likely to live close to their mothers than White British people are.

What about care more generally? According to data from the census, 10.3 per cent of the population of England & Wales is providing unpaid care. Of the White British, 11.1 per cent are providing unpaid care (reflecting a much higher number of old people in this group) compared with 7.3 per cent of ethnic minorities. Ethnic groups with low proportions providing unpaid care are: White Other (5.3 per cent), Mixed (5.7 per cent), Chinese (5.3 per cent) and Black African (5.6 per cent). Ethnic groups with comparatively high proportions are: Indians (9.7 per cent), Pakistanis (9.1 per cent), Bangladeshis (8.8 per cent) and Black Caribbeans (9.8 per cent).

The census also allows us to look at the amount of care provided: in 2011 2.4 per cent of the population provided 50 hours or more of unpaid care a week. Of White British 2.4 per cent did so compared with 1.6 per cent of ethnic minorities. The White British have the highest proportion of people providing 50 hours or more a week of unpaid care but Bangladeshis and Pakistanis have comparable rates at 2.3 per cent and 2.4 per cent respectively. For some, such as the Chinese (1 per cent) and Mixed (1.1 per cent), the proportion is considerably lower reflecting these groups’ younger average age.

Ethnicity of friends

People tend to draw their friends from the ethnic groups that they belong to. The Government recently released results from the most recent wave of its Community Life Survey (CLS). It shows that friendship groups are far more structured by ethnicity and religion than age and education.

It found that 42 per cent of British adults had friendship groups that were entirely of the same ethnic group whereas 28 per cent drew their friends entirely from the same religious background. Contrast this with 15 per cent of people having friends entirely of the same age group and 19 per cent of the same level of education. The vast majority had friendship circles that were at least more than half drawn from the same ethnic group – 85 per cent.

Data from Understanding Society present a picture of even greater ethnic homogeneity in our friendship circles. According to this data source, 53 per cent of adults have friendship groups that are ethnically the same. Moreover, between 2011 and 2015 there has been no change in this figure.

Both the CLS and Understanding Society data show that the ethnic majority are much less likely to have ethnically-mixed friendships. Nearly 90 per cent of white British people have circles that are more than half white.

Ethnic minorities (including white minorities) have more diverse friendship circles although the preference for similarity is strongly present. 62 per cent have more than half or all of their friends who are like them. Groups with the lowest proportions of homogenous friends are mixed ethnic people, the Chinese, and Black Africans and Caribbeans. South Asians and White Others have higher proportions of homogeneity.

While those of mixed ethnicity mix more, research by Raya Muttarak has shown that cross-ethnic friendships with White British are the most likely for those who are White and Black Caribbean; those in other combinations of mixed ethnicity are less likely to have White British friends. Religion also seems to have an effect: Indians with no religious belonging are much more likely to have White British friends than Indian Muslims and Sikhs as well as Hindus (although the difference is not so strong in the latter case).

Generally, predominantly Muslim ethnic groups have the lowest probability of having White British friends with Muslim Bangladeshis having the lowest. Younger generations are more likely to have inter-ethnic friendships. The probability increases with education but declines with neighbourhood deprivation.

The Social Integration Commission (SIC) established in 2014 by The Challenge (which delivers the government’s civic service scheme across half of England) undertook a study of social mixing. It asked people of different ethnic, age and income groups to report how mixed a recent social event they had attended was. It used a specially designed index of segregation that takes into account the ethnic diversity of the local area. It measures the difference between the level of reported segregation and no ethnic segregation (ranging from 0 to −100 with more negative numbers meaning higher segregation).

The SIC study found that the average person had 48 per cent fewer interactions with people of different ethnicities than would be expected if ethnicity had no influence. For White people, this same figure stood at −50 per cent while for Asian people it was −43 per cent and for black people −40 per cent. Mixed people were the least segregated with a score of −11 per cent. The SIC study also found that Londoners, despite living in the most ethnically diverse part of the country, had higher levels of social segregation, showing that diversity does not automatically lead to integration.

The SIC study also asked people of different ethnicities how much they trusted people from their own and other ethnic groups. Almost half (49.4 per cent) of whites placed a high level of trust in people from their own ethnic group, and slightly more than the level of trust they had in people from ethnic minorities: 46.9 per cent trusted Asians, 46.8 per cent trusted black people, and 47.9 per cent trusted people of mixed ethnicity. Black people recorded the lowest levels of trust: 39 per cent trusted their own in-group, 38.4 per cent trusted Asians, 40.6 per cent trusted white people, and 48.5 per cent trusted mixed ethnic people. The figures for Asians were as follows: 47.3 per cent trusted their own in-group compared with 42.5 per cent who trusted black people, 48.5 per cent who trusted people of mixed ethnicity, and 50.3 per cent who trusted white people.

Distrust is generally low although there is relatively high suspicion between black people and Asians: 12 per cent of Asians distrusted black people while 8 per cent of black people distrusted Asians.

In the same study people were asked how often they had had frequent positive interactions with people from different ethnic out-groups. The most striking result was that ethnic minorities overwhelmingly reported frequent positive interactions with white people while white people were much less likely to report such exchanges with ethnic minorities. Black people had the highest rates of frequent positive interactions of all the groups in question.


2. Language

About one third of ethnic minority households do not have English as their first language. London has the highest proportion of people with a main language other than English.

Who speaks English?

Speaking good English is essential for successful integration into British society and for taking part in the broader social and cultural life of the country. Almost all (95 per cent) of the people who NatCen surveyed for Being British Today (2014) expressed the view that to be ‘truly British’ you must be able to speak English.

Most good jobs are only available to those who can speak the language at close to a native level. English language ability accounts for about 17 per cent of the employment gap between British-born residents and migrants, and between 22 and 26 per cent of the wage gap.

According to the 2011 census just over 92 per cent of the population of England and Wales (49.8 million) had English (or Welsh in Wales) as their main language. There were 4.2 million people or 7.7 per cent who did not have English as their first language; 3.3 million people or 6 per cent who had English as a second language could speak it well or very well while 863,150 people or 2 per cent could not speak English well or at all.

This suggests that more than one-third of the ethnic minority population do not have English as their first language, though English fluency is almost complete among second and third generation migrants. In 2011 around 9 per cent of schoolchildren (1.1 million of a UK total of 9.9 million) came from homes where English was not the first language, though in many cases the children were semi-bilingual when they started school.

The 2011 census recorded nearly 100 different languages being spoken in the UK. Among those who do not have English as their first language, the top five most popular languages by number of speakers are: Polish (546,000 speakers), Punjabi (273,000 speakers), Urdu (269,000 speakers), Bengali (221,000 speakers) and Gujarati (213,000 speakers).

Most South Asian households are still speaking a South Asian language, partly thanks to high levels of recent immigration. But the numbers are falling. In 1997 35 per cent of Indian households conducted themselves in English compared with 54 per cent in 2010; 15 per cent of Pakistani families spoke English as their main language in 1997 compared with 45 per cent in 2010, while for Bangladeshis over the same period the change was from 12 per cent to 38 per cent. The proportion of Black African families speaking English at home has not changed much but remains high. These figures differ slightly from those in the graph below taken from the LFS, because of differences in sampling methods.

The level of English competency among actual immigrants is reasonably high although some groups fare better than others: for instance 82 per cent of Indian immigrants spoke English well compared with 64 per cent of Pakistani immigrants. It is telling that when we look at the so-called 1.5 generation – immigrants who arrived in the UK when they were young with a parent or guardian and have been at least partially schooled here – 1.5 generation Indians, Black Africans are completely proficient in English; however just 80 per cent of 1.5 generation Pakistanis and 91 per cent of 1.5 generation Bangladeshis have complete proficiency.

Among the largest linguistic groups in England and Wales in 2011, proficiency in English, defined as those who speak English well or very well, ranged between 67 and 95 per cent. French speakers have the highest proficiency in English (94.3 per cent), and about 72 per cent of Polish speakers speak English well or very well, while Punjabi and Bengali speakers had the lowest English proficiency – 67 and 69 per cent respectively.

The ten linguistic groups with the lowest levels of proficiency in English can be seen in the graph below. Some of these groups are very small in number – Gypsy/Travellers and Yiddish speakers – and these groups are fairly isolated. Other groups such as Punjabi, Urdu, and Bengali speakers are large and have much more interaction with the White British majority. Much of this lack of proficiency can be accounted for by recent immigration.

London has the highest proportion of people with a main language other than English or Welsh (22.1 per cent of its population). The London Borough of Newham houses the highest percentage of people who cannot speak English well or at all (8.7 per cent of its population) while in Redcar and Cleveland 99.3 per cent of residents speak English as their first language. The five local authorities with the lowest proportion of people reporting their first language as English are Newham (58.6 per cent), Brent (62.9 per cent), Tower Hamlets (65.8 per cent), Ealing (66.1 per cent) and Westminster (69.2 per cent).

Those who are not proficient in English report worse health while women who lack proficiency have worse health than comparable men.5 Lack of proficiency in English is also linked to a reduced likelihood of forming inter-ethnic friendships.6

There are still many people – especially South Asian women – whose lives (and those of their children) are more restricted than they might be because they do not speak decent English. Some of the most successful and best integrated minorities live in a bilingual (even bicultural) world with an ancestral language spoken in the private sphere but English spoken at work and when socialising with English speakers – this is the experience of many Chinese and Hindu and Sikh Indian households. But arriving in the country already able to speak English well usually smoothes the passage into Britain, as the example of successful East African Asians shows.

Following a David Cameron article in The Times on January 18th 2016 the integration debate briefly focussed on the English language proficiency of Muslim women, especially those who have been here for many decades but still speak poor or no English.

The Prime Minister said that in England 22 per cent of Muslim women (aged 16+) either cannot speak English well or cannot speak it at all. For Muslim men, it is 10 per cent. This figure was challenged by many but is drawn from the 2011 census and is broadly correct.

By comparison, 13 per cent of Hindu women are either struggling or have no English as do 5 per cent of Hindu men.

The census shows there were 38,000 women who could not speak English at all or 4 per cent. There are 8,000 Muslim men with no English whatsoever.

The 5 local authority areas with the highest shares of Muslim women with low levels of English proficiency are Tower Hamlets (33 per cent), Haringey (33 per cent), Hackney (33 per cent), Oldham (32 per cent), and Sandwell (31 per cent).

On BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme an alternative figure of 6 per cent has been put forward and attributed to the Muslim Council of Britain. However this 6 per cent is an estimate of all Muslims (aged 3+) living in England & Wales and is based on the levels of English among Pakistani and Bangladeshi immigrants. Moreover, it is only referring to those who cannot speak English at all – it does not include those who have only rudimentary levels. According to the MCB’s analysis of the census, 23 per cent of those born in Pakistan have either no English or cannot speak it well (4.2 per cent and 18.8 per cent respectively). For Bangladeshis, it is 30.2 per cent (5.5 per cent and 24.7 per cent respectively).

Many Muslim critics complained that once again their religious community was being singled out for attack. Critics, Muslim and non-Muslim, focussed on the threat to deport people if their English does not improve and on the reduction in the public subsidy for ESOL courses (for more on ESOL see Demos’ report)

Cameron did however promise £20m for a programme directed at teaching English to women from relatively isolated communities.

There is also the question of the number of languages that some minorities are expected to know, at least to some extent. Sikhs, for example, normally work with two languages: Punjabi, the language of Sikh scripture, and English. Pakistanis from Kashmir are, by contrast, often operate using four languages: Mirpuri Punjabi, which is spoken at home and is mainly an oral language; Urdu, the language of Islamic preaching in South Asia; Arabic, the language of the Quran; and English, spoken at school and in public life outside the home.7

It was estimated in 2011 that £184 million had been spent in the preceding three years on translating official documents and hiring translators for those, including in long-established minorities, who do not speak English well. In addition there is the £300 million a year that English schools are estimated by the Institute for Fiscal Studies to spend on teaching English to pupils from non-English speaking homes.8 In a range of subjects at GCSE level, pupils with English as a second language now outperform native speakers. (This also reflects a broader ‘London effect’ in educational improvement.)

The government and Labour opposition have spoken about redirecting money spent on translation to subsidising language lessons; there is little evidence that this is happening at a national level (though some local authorities, most visibly Newham in East London, have made some gestures in this direction).

Language requirements for entering and settling in the UK have become increasingly stringent in recent years. The 2002 Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act introduced a requirement for applicants for citizenship (and subsequently permanent residence too) to have ‘sufficient knowledge of life in the UK’ and the test was conducted in English. People applying for British citizenship must prove that they have an English language qualification or that they have studied or researched in English, with those over 65 years old and people with long-term physical or mental health conditions being exempt. In 2009, a points-based system was introduced for non-EEA migrants and points were awarded for English language ability.

In 2010, a language requirement (level A1 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages or CEFR) was introduced for spouses or partners coming to the UK. Non-British students wishing to study in the UK are usually required to pass an English language test to prove proficiency to at least level B1 on the CEFR while many courses require level B2 or higher. In 2013, the level required for migrants wishing to settle here was also set at B1 on the CEFR. Meanwhile, the option for migrants with low English ability to take English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and citizenship classes instead of the Life in the UK test was abolished. Government support for ESOL has been dwindling in recent years. Between 2009 and 2014 government subsidies for ESOL courses decreased by 40 per cent. Between 2008/9 and 2010/11 the Government decreased the annual funding for ESOL provision from £212.3 million (7.2 per cent of the Adult Skills Budget) to £118.7 million (4.83 per cent). There was a small increase in the budget allocation for ESOL in 2012/13 to 4.88 per cent.

Research by Demos has argued that the UK lacks a coherent strategy on English language tuition for speakers of other languages and insufficient funding to meet the need for ESOL (which is provided by a diverse set of organisations, from further education colleges to charities). Demos also found that there was an excessive emphasis on employment outcomes in government-subsidised ESOL programmes. The number of people learning through government-subsidised ESOL courses on the main Skills for Life programme was 150,000 in 2011/12, a decrease of almost 15 per cent from the figure in 2007/8.


3. Media consumption

Today’s multitude of media outlets makes monitoring people’s media consumption more difficult. Many people from across all ethnic groups consume a combination of mainstream and alternative media and many from both the White British majority and minority groups have turned to alternatives, creating a fragmentation of British media consumption but also some divergence between them.

Television, radio and newspapers

Alternative media sources may be viewed as complementing rather than rivaling the mainstream, reflecting the multiple, overlapping identities of many people in twenty-first century Britain. While some sources directly counter the mainstream, others serve to engage minority groups in mainstream debates through appealing to their interests, or through speaking their language. Many ethnic groups are picking and mixing from various sources for information and entertainment, and some consumers of ‘minority’ media output are White British.

Different ethnic groups have somewhat different patterns of media consumption. According to figures collected by Ofcom between 2009 and 2012, Indians (40 per cent) and Pakistanis (41 per cent) are most likely to report watching television as their ‘favourite pastime’ with Bangladeshis (38 per cent) and Black Africans (36 per cent) close behind. The average for all groups is 26 per cent. The group that is least likely to report watching television as their favourite pastime is White Others at 22 per cent, closely followed by the White British at 25 per cent.

The amount of television watched also varies. Data from Understanding Society show that the White British on average watch 3.1 hours of television a day compared with 2.7 hours for ethnic minorities. Black Caribbeans watch the most television with an average of 3.6 hours per day. The Chinese watch the least, watching 1.7 hours per day on average.9

Ethnic groups also watch different things on television. Ofcom surveys found that 72 per cent of the White British population watch BBC One regularly but among ethnic minorities the proportion is substantially lower: 63 per cent of Black Caribbeans, 49 per cent of Bangladeshis, 46 per cent of Pakistanis and 40 per cent of Indians watch BBC One regularly. Black Caribbeans and Black Africans lead the way in regularly watching Channel 4 with 55 and 50 per cent respectively doing so compared with 46 per cent of the White British. A survey in 2012 showed that 18 per cent of ethnic minorities watch only mainstream television, while 16 per cent only ever watch ‘ethnic programming’; 60 per cent tend to watch both.

Some minority households watch channels from their country of origin (such as Zee TV based in Mumbai in India or PTV Global, broadcast by the Pakistan Television Corporation). Others watch the British-based minority channels catering for particular groups (such as the Sikh Channel, Bangla TV and the Islam Channel) – or a mixture of the two. In some minority households these channels are an additional source of entertainment and information on top of the mainstream domestic channels, while in others they are the main source. The Islam Channel, launched in 2004, claims to be watched by more than half of British Muslims.

British Asian minorities are much less likely to listen to the radio than the White British and Black Caribbean and Black African groups, with Bangladeshis (40 per cent) being half as likely as members of the White British population to listen to the radio.

Minorities are more likely to get news from the internet and rather less likely to get news from newspapers than the White British. But the main source of news for everyone is television, according to data from Understanding Society. About 52 per cent of the White British get their news chiefly from television, 17 per cent from national newspapers, 14.4 per cent from the internet, and 13.6 per cent from radio. By contrast 49 per cent of ethnic minorities get their news primarily from television, 26.5 per cent from the internet, 11.7 per cent from national newspapers, and 9.1 per cent from radio. The Chinese lead the way in getting news from the internet – 45.6 per cent do so compared with 32.2 per cent of Pakistanis, 26.9 per cent of Bangladeshis, 27.6 per cent of Indians, 24.9 per cent of Black Africans, and only 17.6 per cent of Black Caribbeans.10

Of those who get their news from television, 84.5 per cent use terrestrial channels and 15.5 per cent use satellite or cable channels. The proportion of ethnic minorities watching terrestrial channels is slightly lower than the average, at 72.1 per cent (67.4 per cent relying on the BBC), while 27.9 per cent get news from satellite channels.11

On average, people from ethnic minority backgrounds are more likely to use the internet to check newspaper sites than the average for the British population as a whole (30 per cent compared to 22 per cent). Indians (38 per cent) and Black Africans (37 per cent) are the groups that report using newspaper websites the most.

There is some variation in newspaper readership by ethnicity, with minorities significantly more likely to read broadsheet papers. Research by media agency Manning Gottlieb OMD found that 70 per cent of 18–29-year-olds from non-white ethnic minority backgrounds read a newspaper regularly in contrast with 60 per cent of White British people of the same age. According to data from Understanding Society, across all ethnic groups, the two most popular titles are the Daily Mail and the Sun, and this is true for both the White British and ethnic minorities. However, the proportion of minorities reading them is smaller.12

Altogether, 25.4 per cent of the White British read the old broadsheets, 51.9 per cent read the traditional tabloids, while 22.6 per cent read ‘other’ papers. Minorities are more likely to read a broadsheet (31.1 per cent in total and 12.8 per cent of ethnic minority newspaper readers read the Guardian compared with 7.4 per cent of the White British); minorities are less likely to read a traditional tabloid (34.9 per cent), while 34 per cent read ‘other’ papers. Bangladeshis (55.6 per cent), Pakistanis (47.1 per cent) and to a lesser extent Indians (39.1 per cent) and Black Africans (40.6 per cent) stand out in their reading of ‘other’ newspapers.13 These newspapers are likely to be ethnic titles that either serve the community in question or are publications from overseas.

Internet and social media

Roughly three-quarters of all ethnic minority adults have broadband at home compared with 70 per cent of the White British. However, among young adults there is roughly parity between these two groups while overall older ethnic minority adults (35 plus) are more likely to have broadband than their White British counterparts. About 82 per cent of Indians have broadband at home, along with 80 per cent of people of mixed ethnicity and 76 per cent of people of Black African descent. The lowest proportion of broadband access was found among older Bangladeshi adults – 63 per cent.

Ofcom reported that all ethnic minority groups are more likely to use non-mainstream providers of music on the internet access or download music than the White British population. Meanwhile, people of mixed ethnicity use the internet for music the most (45 per cent), followed by Bangladeshis (39 per cent), Black Africans and Indians (both 37 per cent), Black Caribbeans (34 per cent), White Others (33 per cent), and finally Pakistanis (32 per cent).

Ipsos MORI research in 2014 has revealed that some ethnic minority groups use Facebook and Twitter considerably more than White British people: 51 per cent of White British people had visited or used Facebook in the last three months as contrasted with 69 per cent of Bangladeshis, 63 per cent of people with mixed ethnicity, 62 per cent of White Others, 59 per cent of Black Africans and 57 per cent of Black Caribbeans. Indians were about as likely to visit or use Facebook as Black Africans (56 per cent) but Pakistanis and White Irish were considerably less likely to (49 per cent and 42 per cent respectively). Twitter usage was generally much lower, however; Bangladeshis and Pakistanis showed the lowest rates of visiting or using Twitter at 6 per cent and 7 per cent respectively, while Indians, White Irish and White Others all used Twitter to a similar level (11–12 per cent). Use of Twitter was greatest by people of mixed ethnicity (31 per cent); 22 per cent of Black Africans, 16 per cent of Black Caribbeans, and just 18 per cent of White British people use or visit Twitter. Similarly, people of mixed ethnicity were most likely to use the professional networking site LinkedIn (17 per cent had used or visited it in the past three months). All other ethnic groups including the White British hovered around 10 per cent whereas Pakistanis and Bangladeshis were far less likely to have used or visited LinkedIn (4 per cent and 5 per cent respectively).


In 2014 the media agency Manning Gottlieb found that on average non-white ethnic minority youth are more engaged with new social media platforms than White British youth. This is especially true when it comes to sharing positive experiences on social media platforms: 20 per cent of ethnic minority youth use Instagram to share photos – over double the proportion of White British youth who do the same.

Manning Gottlieb also found that ethnic minority youth have wider social networks than White British youth: 27 per cent of ethnic minority youth communicate with an average of five or more friends per day while the same is true for only 16 per cent of White British youth. The difference is more stark when it comes to family members, with 22 per cent of ethnic minority youth communicating with a family member each day while only 7 per cent of White British youth do the same.

According to a recent Ofcom survey around 20 per cent of the British population report that they are influenced by comments and reviews they read online, but the proportion is higher among Bangladeshi, Indian and Pakistani groups at 37 per cent, 35 per cent and 30 per cent respectively, suggesting that ‘they tend to be more influenced by online comments and reviews’.


4. Crime and policing

There are relatively minor differences between ethnic groups in the experience and the fear of crime, though bigger differences relating to who commits crime and in the proportional make-up of the prison population. Black people (most figures combine Black African and Black Caribbean) are three times more likely to be arrested than whites and five times more likely to be in prison. About one in four of all prisoners is from an ethnic minority.

Arrests and sentencing and prison population

Some of these differences in criminal behaviour between ethnic groups are easily explicable. Young people, poor people and people living in inner city areas (where population stability and trust are at their lowest) are more likely to commit the most visible crimes against people and property, and black and Asian people are disproportionately found in those groups. But experts disagree about how much of the ethnic minority over-representation is down to discrimination in the criminal justice system – black and Asian defendants are more likely to go to jail than white people when convicted of similar crimes – and how much to cultures of disaffection (exacerbated by perceptions of unfairness in the justice system) among ethnic minority youth, which leads them to commit more crime.

In 2011/12 there were just over 1.2 million arrests made in England and Wales. Of those arrested, 79.5 per cent were white, 8.3 per cent black, 5.9 per cent Asian, 3 per cent Mixed, and 1.4 per cent ‘Chinese/Other’. When comparing population sizes and the number of arrests by ethnic group it is evident that some ethnic groups are far more likely to be arrested than others. Across all ethnic groups, there were 25 arrests per 1,000 people in 2011/12; broken into ethnic groups, the figures were 22.8 for white people, 66.9 for black people, 22.9 for Asians, 44.7 for Mixed, and 20.9 for ‘Chinese/Other’.

By 2016, these figures had decreased significantly across all ethnic categories (to 16 per 1000) with the biggest fall in actual terms amongst black people, down to 44.39. However, black people still represented the group with the highest number of arrests, and were 3 times more likely to be arrested than a white person. The figure was 13.75 for white people, 23.8 for mixed ethnicity, and 15.62 for Asians. In 2011, the area with the highest rate of arrests of black people was Dyfed-Powys where there were 158.6 arrests per 1,000 people. In 2016, Dorset had the highest arrest rate for black people at 127.81.

Minority criminality over-representation is particularly striking in London. According to the Metropolitan Police, in 2009/10 54 per cent of those proceeded against for street crime, 59 per cent for robbery, 67 per cent for gun crime and 32 per cent for sexual offences were black.

In 2012, 73.1 per cent of people sentenced for indictable offences were white, 7.5 per cent were black, 4.5 per cent were Asian, 1.8 per cent were mixed ethnic, while 1.1 per cent were Chinese/Other (the remainder were of unknown ethnicity).

In 2012, according to Home Office figures, the average sentence for all indictable offences was 17.0 months. For white people the same figure was 15.9 months while for black people it was 23.4 months. For Asians, the average was 22.4 months; for Mixed the average sentence was 20.4 months while for the ‘Chinese/Other’ group the average was 17.2 months.


Overall, when looking at penalties for indictable offences that carry a potential prison sentence it is clear that white people are less likely to go to prison than black people. For whites, the rate stands at 25.6 per cent compared with 31.3 per cent for black people. Asians also had a higher rate of custodial sentences at 32.1 per cent.

This may be because non-whites are committing more serious indictable offences. By looking at individual offence types we can see more clearly whether or not there are differences in the way the courts treat different ethnic groups. Looking at figures for three types of offences – actual bodily harm; burglary in a dwelling; and production, supply and possession with intent to supply class A drugs – demonstrates that there are differences between ethnic groups but it is not always the case that white people receive preferential treatment.

Mixed ethnic people are more likely to receive a custodial sentence for cases of actual bodily harm than white people, as are blacks, although the difference is not great. Asians have a slightly lower rate of being given a custodial sentence than do whites. For burglary, there is little to differentiate the sentencing of mixed ethnic people and black people from that of whites while Asians have a lower custodial sentence rate.

On sentence lengths for these same specific crimes, for cases of actual bodily harm, black people and mixed ethnic people have slightly higher sentences on average than whites but the differences are marginal. Asian people have a slightly lower average sentence length. For burglary, black people have a higher average sentence length than the other groups in question, among whom there is scant difference. In cases of class A drug-related crime, Asians receive the highest sentences on average, then whites, then black people, and then people of mixed ethnicity.

Next, we turn to acquittal rates. These apply only in those cases where defendants have pleaded not guilty. For actual bodily harm, the acquittal rate was roughly the same for white and mixed ethnic people while for black people and Asians it was lower. In cases of burglary, mixed ethnic and black people both had lower rates while for Asians it was higher. With class A drug-related crime, acquittal rates were substantially higher for white people than for all the other groups.

In 2012 the prison population of England and Wales was 86,000; 71.9 per cent were white, 13.1 per cent were black (compared with 2.9 per cent of the over 18 population), 7.4 per cent were Asian, 3.7 per cent were Mixed, while 1.1 per cent were ‘Chinese/Other’ (the remainder were of unknown ethnicity). A report by the Muslim Council of Britain found that just over 50 per cent of the prison population is Christian and a disproportionately high 13.1 per cent is Muslim. The Young Report found that ‘there is greater disproportionality in the number of black people in prisons in the UK than in the United States’.

In 2011 there were 13 white prisoners per 10,000 people. The same figure for black people was 86 while for Asians it was 23, for Mixed 50, and for ‘Chinese/Other’ it was 12.

Experience and fear of crime

According to data from the Crime Survey of England and Wales 2012/13, the proportion of white people who had experienced crime in the last 12 months was 18.4 per cent compared to 20.8 per cent of non-whites. Using the same data source, it was found that 28.8 per cent of whites had experienced anti-social behaviour in the last 12 months compared to 29.8 per cent of non-whites.


Respondents to the same survey were asked to rate the impact of crime and the fear of crime on their lives. Black people reported the greatest impact of crime on their lives while Asians reported the greatest impact of fear of crime.


Less than one in ten (7.6 per cent) of white people said they were fairly or very worried about being attacked because of their race compared with 37.6 per cent of non-white people. For mixed ethnic people this figure was 32.7 per cent while for Asians it was 39.7 per cent and for black people it was 35.4 per cent.

In 2016/17, there were 80,393 hate crimes recorded by police in England & Wales. This was a 29 per cent increase on the year before. Race-related crime accounted for 78 per cent of hate crime, the number of incidents recorded shows a 27 per cent increase from the previous year. Religion-related hate crimes increased by 35 per cent since 2015/16. In total, 56 per cent of recorded hate crimes were public order offences while 33 per cent were violent.

Many hate crimes go unreported and it is estimated, based on the Crime Survey that there are 222,000 hate crimes a year. 106,000 of these are race-related while 38,000 are tied to religion. Muslims are more likely to be targeted in cases of religion-related hate crime. Although, recorded hate crime is rising, the Crime Survey shows a decrease by 28 per cent between 2007/9 and 2012/15.

Victims of crime and homicides

People of mixed ethnicity were most likely to be victims of crime, according to data from the Crime Survey of England and Wales in 2012/13. Just over 11 per cent of mixed ethnic people reported being victims of crime. White people have slightly lower victimhood rates but not by much compared with black people and Asians. Despite fluctuations in the victimhood rate for mixed ethnicity people, these numbers have remained largely stable since 2008/9.

Respondents to the Crime Survey for England and Wales 2012/13 were asked to rate how likely they were to be victims of crime; 9.6 per cent of white people thought they were likely to be victims of violent crime (assault, mugging, burglary). This compares with 11.8 per cent of mixed ethnic people, 27.8 per cent of Asians, and 16.1 per cent of black people.

Across all ethnic groups the number of homicides per million people was 11 for England and Wales in 2011. Black people are much more likely to be killed than all other ethnic groups. In 2011 there were 26 homicides of black people per million people compared with 9 for whites and 13 for Asians. If we consider London alone then the homicide rate is even higher at 32 per million people. Black people are not only more likely to be murdered but also are less likely to have the police identify suspects when they are murdered. For white and Asian murder victims, in close to 90 per cent of cases the police have a suspect, but for black murder victims they only have a suspect in 80 per cent of cases.


Between 2009/10 and 2011/12 there were 1,776 homicides; 1,333 victims were white, 195 were black and 160 Asian. In most cases, where a suspect had been identified, ethnicity of victims and suspects were closely matched. However and assuming these suspects actually are responsible, white people were much more likely to be murdered by people of the same ethnic group than the others. It is notable that Asians are 12 times more likely to be killed by whites than vice versa.


By looking at the method of murder of victims by ethnicity we can observe the different kinds of crime that ethnic groups are likely to be caught up in. The two most common methods of killing of white people were by sharp instruments (35 per cent) and hitting or kicking (22 per cent). The two most common methods of killing of black people were by a sharp instrument (46 per cent) and by shooting (27 per cent). The two most common methods of killing Asian people were by a sharp instrument (39 per cent) and by hitting or kicking (15 per cent). These figures demonstrate that black people are more likely to become victims of gun and knife crime than other ethnic groups.


Minority representation in the police

Police forces across the United Kingdom tend to be much whiter than the communities they police. However, the extent to which police forces are representative differs across police forces as revealed by figures obtained by The Guardian newspaper.14

The least representative police forces are the Metropolitan Police Service, West Midlands Police, and Bedfordshire Police. Some 40.2 per cent of people living in the Metropolitan Police Service’s area are non-white but just 11.7 per cent of police officers are non-white – a gap of 28.5 percentage points. For the West Midlands Police, the representation gap stands at 21.3 percentage points while for Bedfordshire Police it is 16.4 percentage points.

There are however, some police forces where the level of representation is much closer to the ethnic makeup of the local community. The best representative police forces are: Cumbria Constabulary (0.4 percentage point representation gap), Durham Constabulary (0.5 percentage points), Lincolnshire Police (0.8 percentage points).

Police force areas with larger non-white population shares also have less representative police forces.

It is not only the case that police forces are not representative; they also tend to attract disproportionally less applications from non-whites.  The worst performing police forces is the City of London Police with a gap between the proportion of non-white applicants and that of the police force area standing at 21.4 percentage points. Other poorly performing police forces include Bedfordshire Police (13.2 percentage point gap) and the MetropolitanPolice Service (12.1 percentage point gap).

Some police forces actually receive disproportionality more applications from non-white people. There are 6 police forces like this: Norfolk Constabulary, Gwent Police, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Lancashire Constabulary, Warwickshire Police, and West Mercia Police. The positive gaps in representation tend to be slight at around 1 percentage point.

The Guardian figures also show that non-white people tend to be less well represented in terms of recent appointments. The lowest appointment rates relative to the ethnic minority population share of the local community, were found among the Metropolitan Police Service (23.2 percentage point representation gap), West Midlands Police (16.9 percentage points), and Bedforshire police (14.3 percentage points). More representative appointments were found among Cumbria Constabulary, Norfolk Constabulary, and Cheshire Constabulary (all with relatively minimal representation gaps).

The current Home Secretary, Teresa May is committed to making the British police representative of their communities. One startling insight into why non-white applicants are appointed disproportionately less comes from work done by the Behavioural Insights Team based at the Cabinet Office and perhaps better known as the ‘Nudge Unit’. It was found that non-white candidates were more likely to fail an online ‘situational judgement test’ that is a part of applying to join the police. By making subtle changes to the text of the test, making it more welcoming and by explicitly getting applicants to think about what good policing is, pass rates among non-whites rose to more than match those of whites.


Confidence in the criminal justice system and police

According to the Crime Survey of England and Wales in 2012/13, between white people and non-whites there is not much difference in the proportions of people who rated the police as doing a good or excellent job. People of mixed ethnicities did however show lower levels of confidence in the police.

The proportion of white people who were very or fairly confident in the fairness of the criminal justice system was 61.9 per cent compared with 69.3 per cent for non-white people. For mixed ethnic people it was 60.8 per cent, for Asians 73.5 per cent and for black people 62.6 per cent. However, there is other research that indicates that black confidence in the police is lower than these figures suggest, particularly on the part of Black Caribbeans. Research by Policy Exchange found that 42 per cent of Black Caribbeans trusted the police compared with 62 per cent of Black Africans.

Between March 2014 and February 2015 there were 245 complaints of racial discrimination made against the Metropolitan Police. None of these resulted in disciplinary action.

Stop and search and police prejudice

According to figures from the Home Office, in 2011/12, there were over 1.1 million stop and searches under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE). Although the numbers were down on the year before, this figure is almost 78,000 higher than in 2007/8. Of all stops and searches carried out under PACE, 67.1 per cent involved someone who was white, 14.2 per cent someone who was black, 10.3 per cent someone who was Asian, and 1.3 per cent someone who was Chinese (the remainder were of undisclosed ethnicity).


However, when you account for differences in the sizes of population of ethnic groups, it becomes clear that some groups are very disproportionately targeted. In England and Wales, there were 17.4 stop and searches of white people per 1,000 population. This compares with 104.2 per 1,000 population for black people (about six times higher than for whites), 36.4 per 1,000 for Asian people, and 38.5 per 1,000 for mixed ethnic people. There were 17.6 stop and searches per 1,000 population for ‘Chinese/Other’.

While there has since been a significant drop in the number of stop and searches, the disproportionate number involving ethnic minorities persists. In 2016, there were 4.8 stop and searches per 1000 for white people, 9.3 for Asians, 10.1 for mixed and 31.2 for Black people.

Stop and searches were most common in London where across all ethnic groups there were 66.5 stop and searches per 1,000 people. For white people, there were 47.1 per 1,000 people while for black people the number was three times higher at 151.5 per 1,000 people. For Asians there were 63.1 stop and searches per 1,000 people and for people of mixed ethnicity 69.1 per 1,000.

In 2011/12, 9.4 per cent of all stop and searches led to an arrest according to Home Office figures: stop and searches led to arrests of 9.7 per cent of white people, 9.7 per cent of black people, 7.3 per cent of Asians, 10.5 per cent of people of mixed ethnicity and 9.4 per cent of ‘Chinese/Other’.

Research by the EHRC concluded that reducing disproportionality in stop and search does not necessarily result in rising crime rates. It found that studies in Staffordshire and Cleveland showed decreasing disproportionality in the stop and search of black and Asian ethnic minorities was accompanied by reduced crime rates and increased levels of public confidence in the police.


In the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s research found that the police force exhibited higher levels of prejudice against minorities than was average for the population at large. In 1999, 2000 and 2001 reports from Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary found decreased levels of racism in the police force relative to 1997. However, there was concern that this decrease was not occurring evenly throughout the UK. Bowling, Parmer and Phillips have also suggested that while police stereotyping of black people remained fairly consistent, stereotypes of Asians have shown ‘pliability’. For example, Hudson and Bramhall have observed that perceptions of Asians, and particularly Muslims, among police officers have undergone a transformation in recent years as a result of terrorism and less conformist attitudes of younger Asians.


5. Sport and culture

There are some differences between ethnic groups when it comes to sporting and leisure preferences according to Understanding Society. These reflect several things including income, where people live and most significant of all, the fact that there are many more younger people among the ethnic minority British.

Sporting activity

Adults were asked what sports they had taken part in during the last 12 months. The results are displayed in the graph below. Across all ethnic groups, the most popular sporting activity was swimming, with White British people going swimming more than ethnic minorities. For ethnic minorities going to the gym was more popular; 33 per cent had visited the gym compared with 27.9 per cent of White British people. Football is played more by ethnic minorities than the White British. Some of the highest rates of football playing are observed among South Asians who are least represented in the professional game: Bangladeshis (16.9 per cent), Pakistanis (14.1 per cent) and Indians (11.5 per cent).15


Cricket is played more by ethnic minorities than the White British. This difference is mostly accounted for by Indians (13 per cent), Pakistanis (15.1 per cent) and Bangladeshis (10.4 per cent). The game is no longer particularly favoured by Black Caribbeans – only 3.8 per cent play regularly.16

White British people prefer rugby slightly more than ethnic minorities do. Track and field sports are not popular but slightly more favoured by ethnic minorities than the White British. Running is more popular and also more favoured by ethnic minorities particularly mixed ethnic people and the Chinese. Golf by contrast is much more the preserve of the White British with 9.2 per cent having played compared with 3.8 per cent of ethnic minorities. White British people went skiing only slightly more than ethnic minorities – 3.5 per cent compared to 3.2 per cent (the minority skiers being mainly accounted for by White Others).17

More than one in four (26.9 per cent of) people play sport as a member of a club; 27.1 per cent of White British people were sports club members compared to 25.2 per cent of ethnic minorities. Mixed ethnic people led the way in sports club membership at 30 per cent, while 20.1 per cent of Indians were members.18

Black (or mixed race) people have achieved a significant over-representation in some sports at professional level, most notably football and athletics. However, given such high representation, they are hardly represented in management: 25 per cent of professional footballers are black as are 4 out of 92 managers (as of November 2015). The Professional Footballers Association estimates that 18 per cent of candidates taking management courses are non-white.

There have been a total of 77 black footballers to have represented England, starting in 1978 when Viv Anderson was first capped (as of October 2015). Roughly two in every seven players making their debut for England has been black as has 20 per cent of the team since 1978.

Asians by contrast have had only a negligible impact on the professional game. Currently there are only 9 Asian professional footballers in England. Furthermore, despite the huge popularity of cricket in South Asia, British Asians have had much less impact on the professional game than would be expected. One survey of cricketers in England & Wales in 2014 found that ethnic minority players, many of them Asian, made up 30 per cent of players at grassroots level but only 6.2 per cent playing first-team country cricket. However, 3 Asians (including two Muslims) represented England in the most recent test against Pakistan (November 2015) with four non-white players on the field at one point. The highest representation of non-white players was 5 in 1999.

Cultural activity

Understanding Society also allows us to look at the different kinds of cultural activity that people engage in and whether there is any variation in patterns of participation by ethnicity. Adults were asked what activities they have been involved in if at all in the last 12 months.19

The most popular form of cultural consumption is going to the cinema and there is not much to distinguish the White British from ethnic minorities here. However, some groups go to the cinema less than others: Pakistanis (49.4 per cent), Bangladeshis (43.7 per cent) and Black Africans (46.8 per cent). Mixed ethnicity people lead the way (68.1 per cent) while White Other people are not far behind (65.6 per cent). Because so many films are aimed at a younger audience, some of these observed effects will be accounted for by age. Pop music events are much more the preserve of the White British than ethnic minorities but this is mostly down to markedly low participation by Indians (8.5 per cent), Pakistanis (6.7 per cent), Bangladeshis (4.4 per cent) and Black Africans (5.4 per cent).20


There is little to distinguish the White British from ethnic minorities when it comes to high culture. However, when we look at which ethnic minorities attend cultural events it is usually White Others while visible ethnic minorities participate less. White Others attend the most classical music concerts among ethnic minorities while Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Black Africans are conspicuous by their absence. Something similar is observed for attendance of opera and ballet. Theatre attendance is most popular among the White British but White Others, people of mixed ethnicity and Black Caribbeans all have relatively high attendance. It is much lower among Pakistanis, Indians, Black Africans and Bangladeshis.21

Museums and art galleries are more likely to be visited by White Others than the White British. Bangladeshis, Black Africans and Black Caribbeans are less likely to visit them. Going to the library is less popular for the White British (33.6 per cent) than for ethnic minorities (42.3 per cent).22


6. Health

There are significant differences between ethnic groups in health and longevity and convergence is happening only slowly.

Life expectancy, general health and diet

Life expectancy varies between ethnic groups. Median life expectancy in 2014 for White British women was 83.8 years, 81.4 years for men. Chinese men and women had the highest estimated average life expectancy – 82.8 years and 85.4 years respectively. Pakistanis and Bangladeshis had the lowest life expectancy. For Pakistani men life expectancy in 2014 was 78.7 years and for women 81.4 years. For Bangladeshi men life expectancy was 78.8 years and for women 81.7 years.23

There are also differences in experiences of ill-health. Pakistanis and Bangladeshis are more likely to self-report long-standing illnesses or disability than the White British and the effect is most pronounced among older people. Indians, Chinese and Black Africans are markedly less likely to report having long-standing illnesses.


The census also provides data on whether or not people face restrictions on their day-to-day activities due to a long-term health problem or disability. Across all ethnic groups, 8.5 per cent of the population stated that their day-to-day activities were limited a lot: 9 per cent of white people, 5.4 per cent of Asians, 5.5 per cent of black people, and 4.4 per cent of people of mixed ethnicity. Much of this discrepancy is explained by differences in the average age of the ethnic groups in question.

Eating fruit and vegetables is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. According to data from Understanding Society, the proportion of the population eating fruit every day is 44.9 per cent while the proportion eating vegetables every day is 48.8 per cent. The proportion of the White British eating fruit every day is 44.9 per cent while 50.7 per cent eat vegetables every day.

There is little to distinguish the White British from ethnic minorities as a whole but there are some ethnic groups that consume more fruit and vegetables than others. For instance 53.5 per cent of Chinese eat fruit every day while 71.3 per cent eat vegetables every day. Pakistanis and Bangladeshis as well as Black Caribbeans and Black Africans had lower consumption of fruit and vegetables: 38.9 per cent of Pakistanis ate fruit every day while 23 per cent ate vegetables every day; 37.2 per cent of Bangladeshis ate vegetables every day while 29.3 per cent ate fruit every day; 38.3 per cent of Black Caribbeans ate vegetables every day while 36.4 per cent ate fruit every day; 36.6 per cent of Black Africans ate vegetables every day while 35.6 per cent ate fruit every day.24

Understanding Society tells us that 58.4 per cent of adults said they have smoked: 60.9 per cent of White British had smoked compared with 42.8 per cent of ethnic minorities. Some ethnic minorities had particularly low incidences of smoking: 21.4 per cent of Indians had smoked while 20.6 per cent of Pakistanis had smoked, and 21.3 per cent of Black Africans had smoked. However, not all minority groups had low rates of smoking. White Others and mixed ethnic people had rates comparable to the White British – 60.1 per cent and 62.1 per cent respectively.25

Overall, 69.1 per cent had drunk alcohol in the past week according to Understanding Society. Of the White British, 70.2 per cent had had a drink compared with 58.3 per cent of ethnic minorities. Pakistanis had the lowest proportion of drinkers – only 12.8 per cent. Bangladeshis (36.7 per cent), Black Africans (35.8 per cent), Indians (45.4 per cent), and the Chinese (44.3 per cent) all had lower proportions who had drunk alcohol. The proportions of White Other (68.5 per cent) and mixed ethnic people (68 per cent) were in line with White British.26

In 2014 the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey indicated that 8.9 per cent of white British people had used illicit drugs in the past year, the figure was 9.2 per cent for the white other group and 11.7 per cent for black people, 7.2 per cent for those of mixed ethnicity and 3.4 per cent for Asians. Possible drug dependency among adults was also highest in the black population at 7.5 per cent compared to 3 per cent of white British, 2.4 per cent of Asians, and 1.9 per cent of people with mixed ethnicity.

The proportion of people reporting no physical work in their day-to-day lives across all ethnic groups was 13.7 per cent. There was little difference between the White British and ethnic minorities – 13.8 per cent and 13.4 per cent respectively. There is variation among ethnic minority groups. The Chinese had the highest proportion of people reporting no physical work – 21.3 per cent. The lowest were the Black Africans (6 per cent).27

Disease and ill-health

Incidence of diabetes varies considerably across ethnic groups. In 2012 the Health Survey for England found that incidence of diabetes among the White British population was 6.4 per cent. The proportion of the total ethnic minority population of England that reported diabetes diagnoses is slightly lower (6.3 per cent), however South Asians are far more likely to suffer – Bangladeshis have a rate of diagnoses almost twice that of the national average, and Pakistanis (10.7 per cent) and Indians (10.3 per cent) also have relatively high rates. In contrast, other ethnic minorities are diagnosed with diabetes almost half as frequently as the national and the White British average; White Other (3 per cent) and Mixed (3.4 per cent) ethnic groups experience particularly low incidence of the disease.

Self-reported incidences of high blood pressure were considerably higher for the total population (17 per cent) than they were for the ethnic minority population (9.2 per cent), according to the Health Survey for England in 2012. White British people are most likely to report high blood pressure (19 per cent), however the average for ethnic minorities obscures big differences between groups. Some ethnic minority groups in Britain experience low levels of high blood pressure diagnoses, the Chinese (4 per cent) and Mixed (5.7 per cent) groups in particular; 10 per cent of the Pakistani ethnic population in Britain have high blood pressure, while Black Caribbeans have the second highest overall rate of diagnoses (18 per cent).

The Health Survey for England 2012 shows that self-reported mental health conditions were highest among the White British majority, at 5.4 per cent. The Chinese group comes closest to this level with 4.5 per cent being diagnosed with a mental condition. The Black African population reports by far the lowest proportion of those suffering with mental illness at only 0.5 per cent. Bangladeshis (2.5 per cent) and Pakistanis (2.2 per cent) are also below the national average (2.7 per cent).

Higher rates of psychosis among ethnic minority groups have been consistently observed in academic studies. One explanation given is the lower socio-economic status of many in this group, however this is contested. A study of psychotic disorders among 18–64-year-olds in East London by Kirkbride et al found that Black Caribbeans and Black Africans are at least twice as likely to experience a psychotic disorder as White British people. The children of second-generation Black Caribbeans and white parents, who have mixed ethnicity, appear to be at particularly elevated risk of psychosis. The White Other group also has an elevated risk of psychosis compared with White British people.

The study also found that, even when differences in socio-economic status were controlled for, Pakistani and Bangladeshi women showed a higher risk of schizophrenia than White British women. Kirkbride et al concluded that the elevated risk of psychosis among the ethnic minority population could not be accounted for by age, gender or socio-economic status and that misdiagnoses were unlikely to have skewed figures significantly.

Overall, in 2014 the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey finds that Black people have the highest percentage suffering a common mental disorder at 22.5 per cent. This compares with 19.5 per cent of those with mixed ethnicity, 17.9 per cent of Asians, and 17.3 per cent of white British. These figures contrast with data from the same survey on percentage of people receiving treatment for mental or emotional problems. 14.5 per cent of white British people are receiving some form of treatment compared to just 6.5 per cent of black people. The figure for Asians is 7.1 per cent and 7.4 per cent for mixed ethnicity.

According to a report by the National Obesity Observatory in 2011, which used the Health Survey for England (2004), in the general population the proportion of people with a body mass index of 30kg/m2 or over was 23 per cent for both women and men, this being a common measure of obesity. The ethnic minority group with the highest proportion of obese women was Black African (38 per cent). Black Caribbean women had a high proportion of obesity too (32 per cent). Chinese women had the lowest proportion (8 per cent). The ethnic minority group with the highest proportion of obese men was Black Caribbean (25 per cent). Chinese men had the lowest proportion of obese people (6 per cent). 

Satisfaction levels with GP appointments in 2016/17 were at 72.7 per cent overall. Asian patients showed the lowest levels of satisfaction with Pakistanis at 56.4 per cent, Bangladeshis at 58.9 per cent, Indians at 61.2 per cent, and Chinese at 62.9 per cent. All other ethnic groups differ only slightly compared to the average level.


Further reading

Barnard H, ‘Tackling poverty across all ethnicities in the UK’, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2014. www.jrf.org.uk/publications/tackling-poverty-across-all-ethnicities-uk

Bowling B and Phillips C, ‘Policing ethnic minority communities’ in Newburn T (ed), Handbook of Policing, Willan, 2003. http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/9576/1/Policing_ethnic_minority_communities_ per cent28LSERO per cent29.pdf

Feng Z et al, ‘Are mixed-ethnic unions more likely to dissolve than co-ethnic unions?’, European Journal of Population 28, issue 2, 2012, p 3. www.celsius.lshtm.ac.uk/documents/Feng per cent20mix per cent20union per cent20dissolution per cent20public.pdf

Home Office, Family Migration: Evidence and analysis, 2nd edn, Jul 2011. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/306889/occ94.pdf

IPA Ethnic Diversity Forum, Multicultural Britain 2012. www.mediareach.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Multicultural_Britain-2012.pdf

Kirkbride JB et al, ‘Psychoses, ethnicity and socio-economic status’, British Journal of Psychiatry, London, 2008. http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/193/1/18

Lewis P, Young, British and Muslim, London: Bloomsbury, 2007.

Miranda A and Zhu Y, The Causal Effect of Deficiency at English on Female Immigrants’ Labor Market Outcomes in the UK, IZA, 2013. http://ftp.iza.org/dp7841.pdf

Muttarak R, ‘Generation, ethnic and religious diversity in friendship choice: exploring interethnic close ties in Britain’, Ethnic and Racial Studies 37, no 1, pp 71–98, 2014. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/014198’70.2014.844844

Ofcom, Consumer Experience Special Report: Ethnic minority groups and communication services, Aug 2013. http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/research/cmr/ethnic-minority-groups/ethnic-minority-groups.pdf

ONS, ‘Language in England and Wales, Office for National Statistics, 2011, Mar 2013, p 1. www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171776_302179.pdf

ONS, ‘What does the 2011 census tell us about inter-ethnic relationships?’, Office for National Statistics, 2014. www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/census/2011-census-analysis/what-does-the-2011-census-tell-us-about-inter-ethnic-relationships/rpt—inter-ethnic-relationships.html

Paget A and Stevenson N, On Speaking Terms, London: Demos, 2014, p 40. www.demos.co.uk/publications/onspeakingterm

Platt L, Ethnicity and Family Relationships Within and Between Ethnic Groups: An analysis using the Labour Force Survey, Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of Essex, 2009. www.equalityhumanrights.com/sites/default/files/documents/raceinbritain/ethnicity_and_family_report.pdf

Simpson L, ‘More segregation or more mixing?’, The Dynamics of Diversity: evidence from the 2011 Census Briefing, Manchester: Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity (CoDE), 2012. www.ethnicity.ac.uk/medialibrary/briefingsupdated/more-segregation-or-more-mixing.pdf

Rajab T, Reprogramming British Muslims: A study of the Islam Channel, Quilliam, 2010. www.quilliamfoundation.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/publications/free/re-programming-british-muslims.pdf

Sunak R and Rajeswaran S, A Portrait of Modern Britain, Policy Exchange, 2014. www.policyexchange.org.uk/images/publications/a%20portrait%20of%20modern%20britain.pdf

Tsang A, ‘Our ethnic youth: redefining Gen Y’, Manning Gottlieb OMD blog, Oct 2014. http://blog.mgomd.com/index.php/2014/10/ethnic-youth-redefining-gen-y/ (full report due for publication shortly).


  • 1 K Charsley, ‘Marriage migration and integration’, presentation at Department of Community and Local Government roundtable on integration, 6 Sep 2012.
  • 2 Ibid.
  • 3 R Berthoud, ‘Family formulation in multicultural Britain: diversity and change’ in C Loury, T Modood and S Teles, Ethnicity, Social Mobility and Pubic Policy, Cambridge: CUP, 2005, p 240.
  • 4 Ibid.
  • 5 R Muttarak, ‘Generation, ethnic and religious diversity in friendship choice: exploring interethnic close ties in Britain’, Ethnic and Racial Studies 37, no 1, 2014, pp 71–98.
  • 6 Ibid.
  • 7 P Lewis, Young, British and Muslim, London: Bloomsbury, 2007.
  • 8 D Goodhart, The British Dream, London: Atlantic Books, 2013, p 57.
  • 9 Institute for Social and Economic Research and NatCen Social Research, Understanding Society, Waves 1–4, 2009–2013.
  • 10 Ibid.
  • 11 Ibid.
  • 12 Ibid.
  • 13 Ibid.
  • 14 note that these figures are often taken from different time periods; even data from the same police force might be referring to different time points making within and across comparisons more difficult.
  • 15 Ibid.
  • 16 Ibid.
  • 17 Ibid.
  • 18 Ibid.
  • 19 Ibid.
  • 20 Ibid.
  • 21 Ibid.
  • 22 Ibid.
  • 23 PH Rees, PN Wohland and PD Norman, ‘The estimation of mortality for ethnic groups at local scale within the United Kingdom’, Social Science and Medicine 69, pp 1592–1607, 2009; note that numbers have been adjusted following the recommendation of the authors so that they are up to date.
  • 24 Institute for Social and Economic Research and NatCen Social Research, Understanding Society, Waves 1–4, 2009–2013.
  • 25 Ibid.
  • 26 Ibid.
  • 27 Ibid.