Ethnic groups in the United Kingdom

Ethnic groups in the United Kingdom

People from various ethnic groups reside in the United Kingdom. Migration from what are now the Northern European states has been happening for millennia, with other groups such as British Jews also well established. Since World War II, substantial immigration from the New Commonwealth, Europe, and the rest of the world has altered the demography of many cities in the United Kingdom.



Historically, British people were thought to be descended from the varied ethnic stocks that settled there before the 11th century; the pre-Celts, Celts, Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Norse and the Normans.[1] Recent analysis indicates that the majority of the traceable ancestors of the modern British population arrived between 15,000 and 7,500 years ago and that the British broadly share a common ancestry with the Basque people,[2] although there is no consensus amongst geneticists.[3]

The United Kingdom has a long history of migration, with Liverpool having the oldest black population in the country, dating back to at least the 1730s,[4] and the oldest Chinese community in Europe, dating to the arrival of Chinese seamen in the 19th century.[5] Many Huguenots arrived in Britain as refugees from France in the late 17th century[6] and the 19th century witnessed considerable immigration of Irish people and Jews.[1] After World War Two, substantial migration from Africa, the Caribbean and South Asia was a legacy of the British Empire,[7][8] but there was also substantial immigration from European countries including Poland.[1][9] More recently, migration flows have diversified, which has led some academics to coin the term "super-diversity" to describe the UK population's composition.[10][11]

Official classification of ethnicity

The 2001 UK Census classified ethnicity into several groups: White, Black, Asian, Mixed, Chinese and Other.[12][13] These categories form the basis for all National Statistics ethnicity statistics.[13]

2001 Census ethnicity results

According to the 2001 Census, the ethnic composition of the United Kingdom was:[14]

Ethnic group Population Proportion of total UK population
White British &1000000005036649700000050,366,497 85.67%
White (other) &100000000030961690000003,096,169 5.27%
White Irish &10000000000691232000000691,232 1.2%
Mixed race &10000000000677117000000677,117 1.2%
Indian &100000000010534110000001,053,411 1.8%
Pakistani &10000000000747285000000747,285 1.3%
Bangladeshi &10000000000283063000000283,063 0.5%
Other Asian (non-Chinese) &10000000000247644000000247,644 0.4%
Black Caribbean &10000000000565876000000565,876 1.0%
Black African &10000000000485277000000485,277 0.8%
Black (others) &1000000000009758500000097,585 0.2%
Chinese &10000000000247403000000247,403 0.4%
Other &10000000000230615000000230,615 0.4%

Ethnicity data was not collected for Northern Ireland in the 1991 Census, making comparison between 1991 and 2001 impossible for the UK. Data was collected for Great Britain and comparison shows that the ethnic minority population there grew from 3.0 million in 1991 to 4.6 million in 2001, a rise of 53 per cent.[15] People of mixed ethnicity are the fastest growing of the ethnic groups categorised by the Office for National Statistics.[16]

Multiculturalism and integration

With considerable migration after the Second World War making the UK an increasingly ethnically and racially diverse state, race relations policies have been developed that broadly reflect the principles of multiculturalism, although there is no official national commitment to multiculturalism.[17][18][19] This model has faced criticism on the grounds that it has failed to sufficiently promote social integration,[20][21][22] although some commentators have questioned the dichotomy between diversity and integration that this critique presumes.[21] It has been argued that the UK government has since 2001, moved away from policy characterised by multiculturalism and towards the assimilation of minority communities.[23]

Attitudes to multiculturalism

A poll conducted by MORI for the BBC in 2005 found that 62 per cent of respondents agreed that multiculturalism made Britain a better place to live, compared to 32 percent who saw it as a threat.[24] Ipsos MORI data from 2008 by contrast, showed that only 30 per cent saw multiculturalism as making Britain a better place to live, with 38 per cent seeing it as a threat. 41 per cent of respondents to the 2008 poll favoured the development of a shared identity over the celebration of diverse values and cultures, with 27 per cent favouring the latter and 30 per cent undecided.[25]

A study conducted for the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) in 2005 found that in England, the majority of ethnic minority participants called themselves British, whereas indigenous English participants said English first and British second. In Wales and Scotland the majority of white and ethnic minority participants said Welsh or Scottish first and British second, although they saw no incompatibility between the two identities.[26] Other research conducted for the CRE found that white participants felt that there was a threat to Britishness from large-scale immigration, the 'unfair' claims that they perceived ethnic minorities made on the welfare state, a rise in moral pluralism and perceived political correctness. Much of this frustration was vented at Muslims rather than minorities in general. Muslim participants in the study reported feeling victimised and stated that they felt that they were being asked to choose between Muslim and British identities, whereas they saw it possible to be both.[27]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Duffy, Jonathan (20 April 2001). "Are the British a race?". BBC News. Retrieved 5 April 2010. 
  2. ^ Oppenheimer, Stephen (21 October 2006). "Myths of British ancestry". Prospect. Retrieved 4 April 2010. 
  3. ^ Wade, Nicholas (6 March 2007). "A United Kingdom? Maybe". New York Times. Retrieved 5 April 2010. 
  4. ^ Costello, Ray (2001). Black Liverpool: The Early History of Britain's Oldest Black Community 1730-1918. Liverpool: Picton Press. ISBN 1873245076. 
  5. ^ "Culture and Ethnicity Differences in Liverpool - Chinese Community". Chambré Hardman Trust. Retrieved 5 April 2010. 
  6. ^ Murdoch, Tessa (1985). "The quiet conquest: The Huguenots 1685–1985". History Today 35 (5): 29–33. 
  7. ^ "Migration histories introduction". Moving Here. Retrieved 4 April 2010. 
  8. ^ Layton-Henry, Zig (1985). "The New Commonwealth migrants 1945–62". History Today 35 (12): 27–32. 
  9. ^ Kay, Diana; Miles, Robert (1998). "Refugees or migrant workers? The case of the European Volunteer Workers in Britain (1946–1951)". Journal of Refugee Studies 1 (3–4): 214–236. doi:10.1093/jrs/1.3-4.214. 
  10. ^ Vertovec, Steven (20 September 2005). "Opinion: Super-diversity revealed". BBC News. Retrieved 4 April 2010. 
  11. ^ Vertovec, Steven (2007). "Super-diversity and its implications". Ethnic and Racial Studies 30 (6): 1024–1054. doi:10.1080/01419870701599465. 
  12. ^ "Presenting ethnic and national groups data". Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 11 October 2009. 
  13. ^ a b "How do you define ethnicity?". Office for National Statistics. 4 November 2003. Archived from the original on 27 March 2008. Retrieved 11 October 2009. 
  14. ^ "United Kingdom population by ethnic group". United Kingdom Census 2001. Office for National Statistics. 1 April 2001. Retrieved 10 September 2009. 
  15. ^ "Population size: 7.9% from a minority ethnic group". Office for National Statistics. 13 February 2003. Retrieved 5 April 2010. 
  16. ^ Taylor, Amina (26 November 2006). "A black and white issue: The future of society is mixed". The Independent. Retrieved 4 April 2010. 
  17. ^ Favell, Adrian (1998). Philosophies of Integration: Immigration and the Idea of Citizenship in France and Britain. Basingstoke: Palgrave. ISBN 0312176090. 
  18. ^ Kymlicka, Will (2007). Multicultural Odysseys: Navigating the New International Politics of Diversity. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 72. ISBN 0199280401. 
  19. ^ Panayi, Panikos (2004). "The evolution of multiculturalism in Britain and Germany: An historical survey". Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 25 (5/6): 466–480. doi:10.1080/01434630408668919. 
  20. ^ "Race chief wants integration push". BBC News. 3 April 2004. Retrieved 4 April 2010. 
  21. ^ a b "So what exactly is multiculturalism?". BBC News. 5 April 2004. Retrieved 4 April 2010. 
  22. ^ "Davis attacks UK multiculturalism". BBC News. 3 August 2005. Retrieved 4 April 2010. 
  23. ^ Bam-Hutchison, June. "Race, faith, and UK policy: A brief history". Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past, University of York. Retrieved 5 April 2010. 
  24. ^ "UK majority back multiculturalism". BBC News. 10 August 2005. Retrieved 4 April 2010. 
  25. ^ "Doubting multiculturalism". Trend Briefing 1. Ipsos MORI. May 2009. p. 3. Retrieved 4 April 2010. 
  26. ^ ETHNOS Research and Consultancy (November 2005). "Citizenship and belonging: What is Britishness?". Commission for Racial Equality. p. 37. Retrieved 24 October 2010. 
  27. ^ ETHNOS Research and Consultancy (May 2006). "The decline of Britishness: A research study". Commission for Racial Equality. p. 4. Retrieved 24 October 2010. 

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