Comfortably segregated: UK creeping towards 'color-coded society'
The study, from the UK based Demos think tank and Birkbeck
College, found 100,000 ethnic minority people had left London for
other parts of England and Wales between 2001 and 2011.
Rather than moving to predominately white neighborhoods and becoming “ethnic pioneers”, however, they are relocating to diverse, mixed-minority neighborhoods.
This trend has led towards greater integration among minority groups, with Afro-Caribbeans, Bangladeshis, Indians and Pakistanis decreasingly living in their areas of ethnic concentration.
Conversely, 600,000 white British people left London for other parts of England and Wales – often choosing homogeneous districts which are over 90 percent white.
Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Mapping Integration project at Demos and a former chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, characterized the trend as ‘comfort-zone segregation.’ He noted that white Brits who moved out of multiethnic areas were not doing so out of racism or discomfort with racial diversity, and in fact tended to be more tolerant than those who opted to stay.
“We've been in denial on this issue for far too long. This research reveals that we have yet to face to up to the risk that we are drifting into a color-coded society," Phillips said.
Phillips, who is of Afro-Caribbean descent, said: “There's no doubt that today's Britain is way more at ease with ethnic and cultural difference than the country in which I grew up – nobody moves out of the street because I've moved in.”
He stated that the next generation’s natural desire to “do the
right thing for their families” was leading to a new kind of
social division which would inadvertently pit communities against
“The consequences are to set communities against each other and to build educational and economic division into our society. As we claw our way out of economic crisis, these are the last things we need. But if we're going to halt the trend we first have to acknowledge that it's taking place, and that's why what [Professor Eric Kauffman of Birkbeck College] is telling us is so important.”
Phil Edwards from the far-right British National Party called the researchers “ever politically correct and still in denial” for suggesting “racial tolerance” was “not a factor in why people moved out or where they moved to, nor ethnic differences in wealth or income.”
Supplementary polling conducted by YouGov in July showed
that the fact an estimated one in every 10 people living in
Britain were from an ethnic minority was cause for concern for
many. Approximately 32 percent of respondents said they were
“very comfortable” or “fairly comfortable” with the “number of
people from ethnic minorities who live here.” On the other
hand, 43 percent of respondents said they were “fairly
uncomfortable” or “very uncomfortable” with the number of ethnic
minorities living in the UK. Another 22 percent, meanwhile, were
not comfortable or uncomfortable with Britain’s ethnic
With those people who felt uncomfortable with the number of
ethnic minorities living in the UK, only 5 percent said they were
uncomfortable with “any people from ethnic minorities living in
Britain.” Three-quarters of those respondents, however, said they
would start to feel uncomfortable if 2 percent or more of people
living in Britain were from ethnic minorities.
Kaufmann did not deny ethnicity played a part in people’s decision to move, but believed that “cultural tastes” and lifestyle ideals were the primary motivating factors.The study notes for example, that White Britons who tend to move into ethnically mixed neighborhoods in their 20s move out once they start a family.
“The Census shows that since 2001, white British people have left London and other diverse areas for more homogeneous parts of the country. This is not exactly ‘white flight’ – it seems as though they’re influenced by friends and family as well as the neighborhood ideals of their age group," he said.
“But that doesn’t mean ethnicity isn’t important – Britain’s ethnic minorities haven’t caught the same fever for the countryside as white British over-30s, which seems to be linked to their reluctance to be ethnic pioneers.”