Written by Professor Richard Harris, Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol
Increasingly Britain has a diverse population that draws from a range of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Focusing on England and Wales, from the 2001 to the 2011 Census the number of people of a Bangladeshi, Indian or Pakistani background rose by 46.8 per cent, from 2032463, which was 3.9 per cent of the total population, to 2984670, which was 5.3 per cent. Those of a Black African or Black Caribbean background rose by 51.8 per cent, from 536049, which was 1 per cent of the total population, to 1584453, which was 2.8. Those of a 'White Other' background, which includes immigrants from the EU and also from places such as Australasia and North America, rose by 84.8 from 1345321 (2.6 per cent of the population) to 2485942 (4.4 per cent). In contrast, the largest group, the White British, decreased in number by 0.9 percent, from 45533741 to 45134686, thereby comprising a smaller percentage of the total population: 87.5 per cent in 2001 and 80.5 per cent in 2011.
These demographic changes are of interest to social and population geographers, as well as to policy makers, some of whom are interested in whether there has been an increase in residential segregation as the ethnic composition of the population has diversified. Segregation is a difficult word, often laden with negative connotations. In academic research the meaning is more neutral: it refers to the outcome of various processes, choices or restrictions on people (such as where they can afford to live) that leave a particular group of the population prevalent in places where another group is not. Sometimes evidence of residential segregation is linked with concerns about racial integration (or, rather, the lack of it). The inter-group contact hypothesis suggests that contact between different groups reduces prejudice and conflict between them so if two or more groups are 'living apart' then that could be a situation affecting or affected by levels of (mis-)trust, cooperation and understanding between them.
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This project was funded by the Nuffield Foundation, but the views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Foundation
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