Almost a minority

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Almost a minority

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London's population is changing more quickly than expected. Are white residents leaving the city? (photo: Stephanie Elliott)

Of all the changes announced by the 2011 census, one of the most startling is the rapid change in the ethnic composition of London’s population. This has caught experts by surprise and reflects an underestimate of the extent to which white British people have opted to leave an increasingly diverse London.

Between 2001 and 2011, the proportion of white British in London’s population fell from 58 to 45 per cent.  The share of ethnic minorities reached 40 per cent of the total, a 39 percent increase, while whites of non-British origin grew by a whopping 52 per cent. The share of minorities in London has increased by a percentage point a year since 1991. This has caught many by surprise. “By 2031 39 per cent of London’s population is projected to be from a BAME [minority] group,” a 2010 Greater London Authority planning report announced. Last year, a group of the UK’s leading academic geographers took the GLA to task for overstating the pace of change and projected that in 2031, London would still be 64.5 per cent white. The train has arrived more than 20 years early: in 2011, London is already only 59.9 per cent white! Analysts implied that London would not become “majority minority” in most of our lifetimes, but the latest census figures suggest otherwise.

How did the demographers, many of whom I know and respect, get it so wrong? Don’t blame demography, which is the most predictive of the social sciences, because the ethnic composition of today’s five year-olds is mathematically linked to the population of 50 year-olds in 45 years. Though political considerations may have affected the projections at the edges, this cannot be the explanation since projections for England were largely accurate. Minority fertility is not the issue: if anything minority birth rates have probably fallen faster than predicted. Immigration underestimates may be a partial factor, but what is far more critical is that the experts misread white outmigration from London. One of those who got it right was geographer John Stillwell of Leeds University, who noticed there was a large shift of whites from diverse wards in London to less diverse wards in the outer suburbs, and an even more dramatic white outlflow from relatively white wards of London to other parts of England and Wales. In Barking and Dagenham, to take an extreme example, a third of the white British population departed between 2001 and 2011. Since many lack the resources to move or are council tenants, this suggests that a majority of local white British who could leave may have done so.

Yet we should not jump to any hasty conclusions. In our Demos project, Diversity and the White Working Class,’ funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, Gareth Harris and I put the concept of “white flight” under a magnifying glass by asking why there has been a disproportionate movement of white British people out of diverse areas. While white avoidance of ethnic minorities is the first thought that comes to mind, it’s important to consider the alternative explanations. Most diverse wards are urban and poor. Whites may be leaving for better schools, cheaper homes, fresher air or because they are more likely to be retirees, wealthier or better educated. Only a statistical approach which controls for these factors can tell us whether ethnic preferences are key. The UK’s excellent ONS Longitudinal Study and Understanding Society longitudinal survey ask people about their political and ideological leanings, English national identity and other questions that will help us to compare white British people who remain in diverse areas with those who leave. During 2013 we hope to provide a definitive answer as to whether conservative, Daily Mail-reading whites who identify as English are more likely to leave diverse neighbourhoods than liberal whites who identify as British. We will also look at interconnections between white working-class mobility, opinion on immigration and far-right voting.

American and British research shows that minorities are moving out of their areas of concentration to better neighbourhoods. However, white Americans tend to leave or avoid “majority minority” neighbourhoods and seek out areas which are over 70 per cent white. Given the large increase in Hispanic and Asian populations in America, this is resulting in ever larger heavily minority zones in America’s most diverse metropolitan areas. Whether Britain will follow in America’s footsteps is an open question: much will depend on the residential preferences of working-class British whites and whether they are able to realise them.

  1. December 24, 2012

    Sunder Katwala

    It will be interesting to see the findings.

    There has been quite a lot of loose discussion of the 45% white British finding.
    As the piece notes, London remains 60% white overall. Ed Miliband, for example, answering questions after his integration speech clearly had got the impression there was already an ethnic minority majority.

    London is also 63% British-born and much of the media discussion seemed to infer that that non-white Britons born here were less authentically British, by focusing on the 45% white British vs “British-born minorities and migrants”

  2. December 25, 2012

    Andy JS

    If anything the number of white British people moving out of London will increase over the next ten years or so in my opinion, with last year’s riots – which happened after the census was conducted – being one of the main factors.

  3. December 28, 2012

    Chris McGlade

    My biggest concern with all of this is not as much ‘being overrun by black and asian people’ as it is having our freedom of speech being eroded completely.

    Anyone who has the courage to stand up and point to the obvious elephant in the room and not just accept what is churned out by the Government which we are told we have to believe, are immediately shouted down, branded as racist and quite literally hounded like the minorities that we are told political correctness was brought in to protect.

    All of what is unfolding now, has been planned for many years and the facism known as political correctness has had a big part to play in it all by preventing people from speaking out, speaking their minds and by stating the facts in fear of losing their jobs, being wrongly attacked for being this or that or even in fear of being arrested for speaking what they feel.

    The BNP are branded as facists by the state and almost everyone else, but what kind of facism controls us when the state dictates we cannot speak what is in our hearts and minds and when we cannot speak the truth and state the facts for fear of reprisals and being demonised as something that we are not.

    The BNP were branded as liars and racists for stating the very facts that have now been revealled in the latest census by many, even the Government, when the people who branded them knew the same truth as the BNP did.

    Therefore it is obvious, that in their unfair and untrue smearing tactics, done to divert peoples attention from the truth, the establishment ( successive governments included ) have done all of this and allowed all of this situation to happen deliberately.

    It is also obvious, that all of them have been mere puppets of forces beyond government who really hold the reins of power not just in this country, but in this world. If they were not, then some government, somewhere along the line, would reverse the mistakes of the last government, but they dont.

    We are lied to constantly and have been lied to constantly for some time. Its about time the masses realised that Political Correctness is a tool of these people introduced to discourage and stop free speech of any sort and instead of cowering for speaking the truth, be brave enough to speak the truth which is there for all to see.

    These are dark times people and struggle is coming as more and more people wake up, not to the fact that white british people are in a minority in our own countries capital, but to the fact that we are being lied to and we are being lied to on a massive scale in order to control us on a massive, sinister, unhealthy freedom quenching scale, which George Orwell predicted many many years ago.

    Peace and Light to you all,

  4. February 22, 2013

    Mike Byrne

    A big reason is firstly a lack of resources, food and services that cater fir the needs of the white British community as is happening in my area. Secondly is the feeling if cultural isolation. Councils have been poor to give white british communities the same coverage, cultural and religious backing which has led to isolation and resentment and feeling they are not welcome. In perth australia so many english have moved there the st geirge cekebrations are bigger than england!

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