Study of census data from 1970s to 2000s shows ethnic minorities are far less socially mobile than white counterparts
The employment prospects of people from black and other ethnic minority groups have lagged behind white people in England and Wales since the 1970s because of “persistent racism”, according to a major new study.
Researchers compared occupations between the last two censuses and found that despite some progress, people in most ethnic minority groups were still significantly more likely to be in manual work or unemployed than their white counterparts.
Dr Saffron Karlsen, of the University of Bristol, Professor James Nazroo, of the University of Manchester, and Dr Neil Smith, of the National Centre for Social Research, looked at census data drawn from more than 70,000 people.
They found that between the start of the 1970s and the beginning of the last decade, people from the Black Caribbean, Indian Sikh and Bangladeshi, Indian and Pakistani Muslim communities experienced considerably far less social mobility than white people born in Britain.
“These findings would appear in keeping with work exposing the ethnic penalty which continues to affect the access of minority groups to employment and the ways in which persistent racism limits access to positive socioeconomic outcomes, including social mobility,” Karlsen said.
“There is sufficient consistency to suggest that this is a problem produced and perpetuated at the societal level.”
The study, which will be featured in a forthcoming article in the British Sociological Association journal Sociology, reveals that Bangladeshi men were over three times as likely as white British men to work in manual employment in the 1980s, and remained almost twice as likely in the 2000s.
Black Caribbean men were more likely to move into manual occupations in both the 1980s and 2000s, compared with white British men.
The study also calculates that, at the time of the last census in 2011, women of Bangladeshi, black Caribbean, black African and Pakistani ethnicity were between 1.6 and 5.3 times more likely to be unemployed or not working because of illness than white women.
Men from the same ethnic groups were between 1.8 and 2 times more likely to be unemployed or off work as a result of sickness than their white counterparts.
“Addressing these inequalities will not be resolved by a focus on particular individuals or cultures and their perceived limitations,” Karlsen said. “Rather, the focus should be racism, discrimination and their consequences.”