England's population is changing—but that doesn't mean it's mixingby David Goodhart / December 13, 2012 / Leave a comment
The census has given us a snapshot of just how rapidly England’s (and to a lesser extent Wales’s) population is changing but it doesn’t tell us much about how we are living together. What kind of new life is being created between the existing people and the new ones? Is a harmonious common life emerging across ethnic boundaries, or are different ethnic communities living largely apart from each other?
There are a few signals from the census. On the positive side about 2m households (12 per cent of households with at least two people) had people of more than one ethnic background living in them—an increase from 9 per cent in 2001.
But a less optimistic story appears to lie behind the rather dramatic changes in the demography of the capital—perhaps the one big development to surprise even the experts on ethnicity and demography. The story is not just one about the inflow of many minorities into London but also about a huge exodus from the city of the white British—a 600,000 fall between 2001 (4.3m) and 2011 (3.7m)—which is making the capital increasingly unrepresentative of the country as a whole.
There are many reasons for that exodus, of course, it is not just an expression of discomfort at the arrival of large numbers of rather different people. But the latter clearly is a factor in some places. Consider the astonishing fall in the white British population in Barking and Dagenham: in the space of just 10 years about 40,000 white British people have left, almost one third of the white British population there.
London is evidently not everywhere the happily mixed, multiracial city it likes to think. If you walk around the centre or many neighbourhoods you see very mixed pavements, cafés, shops, buses, tubes and even workplaces. But London also has a lot of what is called in America “sundown segregation,” people mixing to some degree during the day but returning to rather segregated neighbourhoods at night. And London also has a serious problem of school segregation in many areas.
None of this was reflected in the coverage of the census in the London media, despite the fact that…