A Note to the Bishop: Self Segregation is a Myth

As Atif Imtiaz reminds us, Britain is the land of Hume. So, in response to the Bishop of Rochester, let’s look at some empirical evidence, which shows that self-segregation is a myth.

The most accurate data set around is the decennial national census. There are around 8000 electoral wards in England. In 1991, 57 wards had a minority white population and 15% of all non-white residents lived in them. In 2001, 118 wards had a minority white population and 23% of non-white residents lived in them. In the year before the last census in 2001, more non-white residents moved out of these 118 wards than white ones (14,716 verses 9747 respectively).

So we don’t have self-segregation at all. We have the mundane phenomenon of dispersal.

First, white and non-white residents move out of the inner cities when they can afford better housing and commuting costs. This usually happens in middle age. So if everyone generally moves when they can afford to, it can’t necessarily be put down to cultural tensions.

Second, the number of mixed neighbourhoods (or electoral wards) is increasing. Between 1991 and 2001, they grew from 864 to 1070. Also minority white wards are also still mixed wards: they are not segregated. So we’re getting less not more segregated.

Third, inequalities experienced by non-white residents whether in majority-white, mixed or minority-white wards are broadly similar. This shows that geography and ethnic mix are not salient factors in creating inequality. The employment rate of non-whites is roughly twice as high as whites in all these three sorts of ward. So ethnic differentials in poverty aren’t a function of these mythical ghettos either!

So it seems that if there aren’t really any no-go areas as such, just the ones that people like the Bishop of Rochester like to dream up in their heads.

Source: Ludi Simpson, “The Numerical Liberation of Dark Areas”, Sage Race Relations Abstracts, 31/2: 5-25 (2006).

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1 Comment

Filed under Inequality, Multiculturalism, Racism and Islamophobia

One response to “A Note to the Bishop: Self Segregation is a Myth

  1. “geography and ethnic mix are not salient factors in creating inequality” – this is why any comparisons with America are invalid, because economic progress is generally associated with moving to the suburbs in the USA. I gather that kind of relocating is NOT common among British South Asian Muslims (70% of UK Muslims according to 2001 census).

    Interestingly, some local Azad Kashmiri Muslims I meet in Huddersfield do aspire to live in the surburban area I reside in. Why there isn’t more movement here (there is just one other local Muslim family) isn’t clear. Given the choice (I rent here due to needs of a disabled child), I’d live in a predominantly Muslim area because alcohol is so important for non-Muslim socialisation!

    Yakoub Islam, UK

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