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Ethnic groups in the United Kingdom


Ethnic groups in the United Kingdom

People from various ethnic groups reside in the United Kingdom. Migration from what are now the Northern European states has been happening for millennia, with other groups such as British Jews also well established. Since World War II, substantial immigration from the New Commonwealth, Europe, and the rest of the world has altered the demography of many cities in the United Kingdom.


  • History 1
  • Official classification of ethnicity 2
    • Ethnic Groups - 2011 Census data 2.1
  • Multiculturalism and integration 3
    • Attitudes to multiculturalism 3.1
  • See also 4
  • References 5


Historically, British people were thought to be descended from the varied ethnic stocks that settled there before the 11th century; the pre-Celts, Celts, Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Norse and the Normans.[1] Recent analysis indicates that the majority of the traceable ancestors of the modern British population arrived between 15,000 and 7,500 years ago and that the British broadly share a common ancestry with the Basque people,[2] although there is no consensus amongst geneticists.[3]

Official classification of ethnicity

The 2001 UK Census classified ethnicity into several groups: White, Black, Asian, Mixed, Chinese and Other.[4][5] These categories formed the basis for all National Statistics ethnicity statistics until the 2011 Census results were issued.[5]

Ethnic Groups - 2011 Census data

Map showing the percentage of the population who are not white according to the 2011 census.

According to the 2011 Census, the ethnic composition of the United Kingdom was as set out in the table below.

Ethnic group 2011 population 2011%
White: Total 55,010,359 87.1
Gypsy/Traveller/ Irish Traveller: Total 63,193 0.1
Asian or Asian British: Indian 1,412,958 2.3
Asian or Asian British: Pakistani 1,174,983 1.9
Asian or Asian British: Bangladeshi 451,529 0.7
Asian or Asian British: Chinese 433,150 0.7
Asian or Asian British: Other Asian 861,815 1.4
Asian or Asian British: Total 4,373,339 6.9
Black or Black British: Total 1,904,684 3.0
Mixed Multiple: Total 1,250,229 2.0
Other Ethnic Group: Total 580,374 0.9
Total 63,182,178 100

Sources: 2011 Census: KS201UK Ethnic group, local authorities in the United Kingdom, Accessed 21 February 2014
Note taken from ONS spreadsheet: Due to question and response category differences in the country specific ethnic group question asked in the 2011 Censuses of the UK, some responses are not directly comparable. The UK output on ethnic group is therefore presented using a high level classification as recommended by the ONS ‘Primary Standards for Harmonised Concepts and Questions for Social Data sources’. The correspondence between the country specific ethnic group categories onto the UK classification is shown in the table below:

Multiculturalism and integration

With considerable migration after the Second World War making the UK an increasingly ethnically and racially diverse state, race relations policies have been developed that broadly reflect the principles of multiculturalism, although there is no official national commitment to multiculturalism.[6][7][8] This model has faced criticism on the grounds that it has failed to sufficiently promote social integration,[9][10][11] although some commentators have questioned the dichotomy between diversity and integration that this critique presumes.[10] It has been argued that the UK government has since 2001, moved away from policy characterised by multiculturalism and towards the assimilation of minority communities.[12]

Attitudes to multiculturalism

A poll conducted by MORI for the BBC in 2005 found that 62 per cent of respondents agreed that multiculturalism made Britain a better place to live, compared to 32 percent who saw it as a threat.[13] Ipsos MORI data from 2008 by contrast, showed that only 30 per cent saw multiculturalism as making Britain a better place to live, with 38 per cent seeing it as a threat. 41 per cent of respondents to the 2008 poll favoured the development of a shared identity over the celebration of diverse values and cultures, with 27 per cent favouring the latter and 30 per cent undecided.[14]

A study conducted for the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) in 2005 found that in England, the majority of ethnic minority participants called themselves British, whereas indigenous English participants said English first and British second. In Wales and Scotland the majority of white and ethnic minority participants said Welsh or Scottish first and British second, although crucially they saw no incompatibility between the two identities.[15] Other research conducted for the CRE found that white participants felt that there was a threat to Britishness from large-scale immigration, the unfair claims that they perceived ethnic minorities made on the welfare state, a rise in moral pluralism and perceived political correctness. Much of this frustration was vented at Muslims rather than minorities in general. Muslim participants in the study reported feeling victimised and stated that they felt that they were being asked to choose between Muslim and British identities, whereas they saw it possible to be both.[16]

See also


  1. ^ Duffy, Jonathan (20 April 2001). "Are the British a race?".  
  2. ^ Oppenheimer, Stephen (21 October 2006). "Myths of British ancestry".  
  3. ^ Wade, Nicholas (6 March 2007). "A United Kingdom? Maybe".  
  4. ^ "Presenting ethnic and national groups data".  
  5. ^ a b "How do you define ethnicity?". Office for National Statistics. 4 November 2003. Archived from the original on 27 March 2008. Retrieved 11 October 2009. 
  6. ^ Favell, Adrian (1998). Philosophies of Integration: Immigration and the Idea of Citizenship in France and Britain. Basingstoke: Palgrave.  
  7. ^ Kymlicka, Will (2007). Multicultural Odysseys: Navigating the New International Politics of Diversity. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 72.  
  8. ^ Panayi, Panikos (2004). "The evolution of multiculturalism in Britain and Germany: An historical survey". Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 25 (5/6): 466–480.  
  9. ^ "Race chief wants integration push". BBC News. 3 April 2004. Retrieved 4 April 2010. 
  10. ^ a b "So what exactly is multiculturalism?". BBC News. 5 April 2004. Retrieved 4 April 2010. 
  11. ^ "Davis attacks UK multiculturalism". BBC News. 3 August 2005. Retrieved 4 April 2010. 
  12. ^ Bam-Hutchison, June. "Race, faith, and UK policy: A brief history". Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past,  
  13. ^ "UK majority back multiculturalism". BBC News. 10 August 2005. Retrieved 4 April 2010. 
  14. ^ "Doubting multiculturalism". Trend Briefing 1.  
  15. ^ ETHNOS Research and Consultancy (November 2005). "Citizenship and belonging: What is Britishness?".  
  16. ^ ETHNOS Research and Consultancy (May 2006). "The decline of Britishness: A research study". Commission for Racial Equality. p. 4. Retrieved 24 October 2010. 
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