Sleepwalking to Segregation? challenges many of the myths about migration and ethnic groups in Britain. Here are some of the myths – and the real evidence – about issues that often come up in discussion about housing and communities, as considered in the book.
Myth 1: Britain is allowing uncontrolled immigration
The facts: The number of foreign born people living in Britain has increased: there are now twice as many people here who were born abroad, compared with the 1960s. BUT the growth is exactly in line with worldwide trends over the same period. Several developed countries – such as the USA, Canada and Germany – have higher proportions of migrants than Britain. The proportion here is exactly in line with the average for the whole of Europe. There is nothing exceptional about immigration to Britain.
Myth 2: Most migrants are asylum seekers
The facts: While asylum cases were about one quarter of immigration in 1999, the proportion has now fallen to less than seven per cent.
Myth 3: Immigrants are a burden on society
The facts: Immigrants are likely to be younger people and more likely to have a degree or a skilled trade than the average person in Britain. A new study by think tank IPPR has concluded that there is no evidence that migrant labour pushes down wages. More money is sent to Britain from abroad, by Brits working overseas, than is sent abroad by migrants working here. Immigrants pay more in taxes than they use in benefits and public services. Non-British nationals living here are less likely to claim benefits than British nationals.
Myth 4: Population growth is due to immigration
The facts: Migration is only one factor in population growth, and less significant than natural change due to people living longer and the birth rate increasing. Migration patterns also fluctuate more rapidly – it is not long ago that more people were leaving Britain than entering, and this could easily happen again.
Myth 5: Migration is causing a housing crisis
The facts: Net migration does add to the need for new housing but again it is only one factor. Other big factors are the massive increase in the numbers of people living alone (which have grown from 3m to 7m since 1971), the numbers of second homes and the higher space standards people now expect. Many ethnic minorities live at higher densities and use less space than the average white Briton.
Myth 6: Britain is overcrowded
The facts: Population density in the UK is 250 people per square kilometre, similar to Germany (230), less than Belgium and Holland (both nearly 400) and greater than Italy (192) or France (109).
Myth 7: Britain is becoming more segregated
The facts: The spread of ethnic minority groups is becoming more even, and less clustered, over time. The areas with fewest white residents are becoming more diverse over time, not less so. Only six local authorities contain any electoral ward that has more than 75 percent ethnic minority residents. Looking at the areas with the highest concentrations of ethnic minorities, more white people are moving into those areas than are moving out.
Myth 8: Ethnic minorities live in ghettoes
The facts: White people are more isolated than ethnic minorities: a Pakistani living in Britain on average lives in an area with 26 percent Pakistani residents, whereas white people live in areas that on average are 94 percent white. Only eight wards in Britain have a majority of a single minority ethnic group.
Myth 9: Some cities have become minority white
The facts: Some London boroughs like Brent and Newham already have a minority of white residents, but cities such as Birmingham and Leicester are unlikely to become minority white for many years. On current projections, this will happen in Leicester in 2019 and Birmingham in 2024. In Bradford, the next most likely to have a white minority, it is not projected to happen until 2031.
Myth 10: Cities are ‘gripped by fear’ of social unrest because of ethnic tensions
The facts: Alarmist headlines or statements by respected commentators often disregard evidence from opinion surveys. For example, the British Social Attitudes Survey has been conducted annually since 1983, and its results show growing tolerance towards ethnic minorities, especially among young people. Comparisons between Britain and other European countries about preferences for living in an area which are not racially diverse show that British people are no more likely to want this than people in other countries.
The title of the book Sleepwalking to Segregation? comes from a speech by Trevor Phillips, now head of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, in 2005. His forecast of some parts of cities becoming ‘black holes into which no one goes without fear and trepidation’ has not come to pass. This book shows that there has never been any evidence that it was going to. Yes of course some people are concerned about levels of migration, but lets get the facts straight and then we might be able to distinguish between valid concerns and mere prejudice.
Original post: Housing, issue 32