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Sleepwalking to segregation?

John Nuttall probes a new book by Manchester academics that confounds racial myths

Published on January 27th 2009.


Sleepwalking to segregation?

Two Manchester academics, Professor Ludi Simpson and Dr Nissa Finney of the University of Manchester published their book Sleepwalking to segregation? Challenging myths about race and migration on Thursday 22 January.

The book expounds their belief that race relations in Britain are under threat from a series of ill-informed myths. They say that by using previously unpublished evidence they can show that repeated falsehoods about immigration, integration and segregation are misguiding policy and promoting racial disharmony.

The title of the book is taken from a quote from Trevor Philips, head of the equalities watchdog, when he said that Britain was “sleepwalking” into racial and religious segregation.

Professor Simpson and Dr Finney say that after years of investigation they have found no evidence “whatsoever” for the existence of race ghettos in the UK and that, in fact, the opposite is true with increasing ethnic mixing.

Their review of evidence shows that 'white flight' is no greater than brown or black flight and that there is white movement into minority concentrations in Leicester, Bradford, Lambeth, Wolverhampton, Wycombe, Manchester and Merton.

They say that politicians have stigmatised the areas and their residents by linking social problems to segregated areas. They also provide evidence that areas with large populations of Muslims do not act as a “breeding ground for terrorism”.

“By propagating myths using bogus and alarmist interpretations of population change, individuals such as Trevor Phillips, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, Bishop of Rochester and Sir Andrew Green (chair of Migration Watch) are inadvertently promoting racial segregation,” says Professor Simpson.

“Misunderstanding breeds mistrust and division between ethnic and religious groups. This book is about dispelling those myths. The truth is that Britain's so-called ghettos are diverse areas both ethnically and socially where no one ethnic group dominates.”

Dr Finney added: “The only concentrations which resemble anything like ghettos are of white people. The average white person lives in an area which has more than 94 per cent white people in it.

“British Pakistanis, for example, live in areas which on average have 26 per cent Pakistani residents. In almost every city with a sizeable immigrant settlement area, children of immigrants have on balance moved away from those areas, not to them or between them. So it is wrong to argue there is retreat. Rather, we are witnessing dispersal.”

Some of the myths being challenged:

  • The myth: Britain has too many immigrants
    The evidence: There are unexceptional immigration levels in Britain. Less than three per cent of the world’s migrants live in the UK compared to five per cent in Germany and 20 per cent in the USA. Migrants make up nine per cent of the population in the UK, the same as the average for Europe.
  • The myth: Britain is becoming a country of ghettos
    The evidence: Thousands of wards have a majority white population. Only eight wards have a majority of a single minority ethnic group. These wards are in Leicester, Bradford, Pendle, Ealing and Tower Hamlets. The highest proportion for a single minority group is 74 per cent, the proportion of Indians in the population of the Latimer ward of Leicester. This does not meet the criteria of a ghetto.
  • The myth: More segregation into friendship groups
    The evidence: When the chair of the Commission for Racial Equality claimed in 2005 that “alarmingly, we showed that young people from ethnic minorities were twice as likely to have a circle of pals exclusively from their own community as were older ethnic minority folk”, he was using a judicious compound of alarmist language and false claim to scientific rigour to create a striking message about friendship groups, unsupported by the evidence. For most minority young people, roughly half or more than half of their friends are White.
  • The myth: Minorities want to live in segregated neighbourhoods
    The evidence: Housing aspirations of young people from white and minority ethnic groups are very similar: they all desire safe neighbourhoods with good environments, no anti-social behaviour and to be near family and friends. Focus groups across many districts show that minority young people want to live in mixed neighbourhoods.
  • The myth: White flight and minority retreat
    The evidence: The movement out of minority neighbourhoods is non-racial: it is at similar rates for each minority ethnic group and the White group. Dispersal of this kind is evident for each ethnic group during the 1990s and the 2000s, and for districts, wards and street-level neighbourhoods. Indians are leaving Leicester, Caribbeans are leaving Lambeth, Bangladeshis are leaving Tower Hamlets and Pakistanis are leaving Bradford. These patterns have non-racial explanations. They represent aspirational movements reflecting responses to housing markets and lifestyle choices and well established trends of suburbanisation.

Certainly the recent study by Lucinda Platt (from Essex University's Institute of Social and Economic Research) which shows that nearly one in ten UK children live in a mixed race family seems to support their view. As last week saw the inauguration of America's first mixed race president, maybe this book is a timely dose of the truth for all the 'Little Englanders' and exploitative politicians peddling these myths.

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10 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

DavidBJanuary 27th 2009.

Furthermore; how does a comparison between the impact of imigration in massive land masses found in Continental Europe and the USA have any relevance to the dramatic impact we experience on a tiny land locked island. If you wish to prove a point best not rely on the "damned lies" otherwise refered to as "statistics"

jaybeeJanuary 27th 2009.

Poor ole' Rosie, OF COURSE BRITAIN DOESN'T HAVE TOO MANY IMMIGRANTS! Just look at the unemployment queues, they have to bring in Italians, Portugese and others to do the jobs lazy Brits won't do!! Thats right isn't it Rosie???

scoteeeJanuary 27th 2009.

To DavidB- I think before ranting on this page and making assumptions about the one or two of this articles excerts taken from the booko,the book should be read from cover to cover where perhaps the evidence supporting the comments maybe found.Just a thought.

cigpapersJanuary 27th 2009.

Work for The Goverment by any chance pro diversity?

DavidBJanuary 27th 2009.

After years of research Messrs Simpson & Finney state "they have found no evidence “whatsoever” for the existence of race ghettos in the UK" then go on to say "that there is white movement into minority concentrations in Leicester, Bradford, Lambeth, Wolverhampton, Wycombe, Manchester and Merton" if a "minority concentration" isn't a "Ghetto" will someone please explain to me what the hell it is? not only do they appear to live in a parallel universe they are prone to contradictions!

rosieJanuary 27th 2009.

has anyone shown this article to cigpapers et al?wonder how they'll try to spin this into pro-bnp propaganda.

cigpapersJanuary 27th 2009.

Come on Rosie the marxist fairytale of multiculturalism is over. It's not your fault but the mess left to clear up is all our reality.

Pro DiversityJanuary 27th 2009.

Instead of inference about my motives(false as it happens), perhaps cigpapers could answer the question.

Pro DiversityJanuary 27th 2009.

What does cigpapers mean that multiculturalism is over and there's a mess to clear up? My definition of multiculturalism is that different cultures (by ethnicity, class, sexuality, etc) share this diverse country and its cities. It always has been mixed and, I believe and hope, always will be. Who wants to live in a monoculture?

Bill CobbettJanuary 27th 2009.

Sorry Mr Ignorant cigpapers - multiculturalism is not a Marxist concept.

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