English Attitudes Towards Ethnic Minorities

Does the ethnic composition of the locality in which individuals live lead to more negative attitudes towards minorities in England? That is one of the questions addressed by Christian Dustmann and Ian Preston in an analysis of the effect of levels of education, unemployment experiences, labour market conditions and local concentration of ethnic minorities on the degree of hostility towards minority populations. Their report is published in the latest issue of the Economic Journal.

The study is based on an analysis of the British Social Attitudes Survey for the years 1983-91. The analysis covers the attitudes of between 3,000 and 4,000 individuals living in England and uses four different measures of attitudes, including self-assessed prejudice, attitudes towards individuals from minority populations in private and professional relations, and attitudes towards race discrimination laws.

The research reveals that:

  • There is no evidence of any systematic long-run association between antipathy of majority individuals towards ethnic minorities and the immigrant composition of the local neighbourhood.
  • This may be due to the location decisions of individuals in either population offsetting any short-run effects. Hostile individuals of the majority population are less likely to choose to live close to minority communities, while minority individuals may move away from areas where they encounter hostility. If this were to happen, a short-run association between hostility and concentration might be eliminated in the long run by ”sorting”. Analysis designed to separate short- and long-run effects is supportive of such an interpretation.
  • The strongest relationship with racial prejudice is found with education. Highly educated individuals are 10-15% less likely to express racially intolerant opinions than are individuals with low education.
  • Contrary to frequently expressed opinion, racial hostility is related neither to individuals” experience of unemployment nor to local economic conditions.

”Attitudes to Ethnic Minorities, Ethnic Context and Location Decisions” by Christian Dustmann and Ian Preston is published in the April 2001 issue of the Economic Journal. The authors are Senior Lecturers in Economics at University College London, and are also affiliated to the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS). A related paper published by the Centre for Economic Policy Research examines ”Racial and Economic Factors in Attitudes to Immigration”.

Ian Preston

020-7679-5836 | i.preston@ucl.ac.uk