ethnic groups

The dictionary definition of 'Ethnic' is: relating to a human group with racial, religious or linguistic characteristics in common.

The issue of ethnicity in the UK has been a much discussed element in terms of population statistics and understanding the communities that make up what is now regarded as a 'diverse' and 'vibrant' multicultural Britain.   

Current data and basic understanding of the UK's larger ethnic minority communities is still based on a variety of research, ranging from the 2001 Home Office Census, which at this stage only provides a breakdown of the numbers, to various surveys commissioned by political parties, media companies and private market researchers.

In recent years, the latter have been particularly keen to produce surveys and reports on ethnic minority groups for obvious commercial reasons; after 2005, following the terrorist attacks in London, ethnic minority communities have been the target of several polls trying to investigate their ‘way of life' in relation to the white majority.

In this section we present complete profiles for each group, along with the latest news and issues affecting them; whilst maintaining a totally unbiased approach, we try to highlight both the social problems faced by ethnic minority groups, and their positive contributions to a diverse and dynamic Britain.

The 2001 Census revealed that the UK today is more culturally diverse than ever before. The 4.6 million people from a variety of non-White backgrounds are not evenly distributed across the country, tending to live in the large urban areas. The different groups share some characteristics but there are often greater differences between the individual ethnic groups than between the minority ethnic population as a whole and the White British people. The majority of the UK population in 2001 were White (92 per cent). The remaining 4.6 million (or 7.9 per cent) people belonged to other ethnic groups.

Indians were the largest of these groups, followed by Pakistanis, those of Mixed ethnic backgrounds (a category introduced for the first time in the census), Black Caribbeans, Black Africans and Bangladeshis. The remaining minority ethnic groups each accounted for less than 0.5 per cent of the UK population and together accounted for a further 1.4 per cent.

Around half of the non-White population were Asians of Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi or other Asian origin. A further quarter were Black, that is Black Caribbean, Black African or Other Black. Fifteen per cent of the non-White population were from the Mixed ethnic group. About a third of this group were from White and Black Caribbean backgrounds.

There were almost 691,000 White Irish people in Great Britain accounting for 1 per cent of the GB population.

In Great Britain the number of people who came from an ethnic group other than White grew by 53 per cent between 1991 and 2001, from 3.0 million in 1991 to 4.6 million in 2001. In 1991 ethnic group data were not collected on the Northern Ireland Census.

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 According to the 2001 Home Office census, ethnic minority groups were more likely to live in England than in the other countries of the UK. In England, they make up 9% of the total population, compared with only 3% in both Scotland and Wales, and 1% in Northern Ireland.
The ethnic minority populations are concentrated in the large urban centres, with nearly half 45.7% living in the London region, where they make up 29% of London population.

After London, the urban centres for overall ethnic minority communities are:
• West Midlands - 13%
• South East - 8%
• North West - 8%
• Yorkshire & The Humber - 7%

The English regions which contain the lowest proportion of ethnic minority communities are the North East and the South West, where they comprise only 2% of each region's population. 

It is widely accepted that ethnic minority communities live in distinct regions, which can be identified across the UK. Often perceived as ghettos, the regional distribution of the ethnic minority communities has an historical context, with the settlement of the first migrants, and the building of roots and communities:

• 78% of Black Africans live in London
• 61% of Black Caribbeans live in London
• 54% of Bangladeshis live in London (within the boroughs of Camden and Tower Hamlets)

  Other communities are slightly more dispersed, but still quite clearly identifiable, with significant numbers across the UK:

• Indians are concentrated largely in London, Leicester, Wolverhampton and Slough
• Pakistanis are concentrated in London, Slough, Luton, West Midlands, Manchester and Yorkshire (Bradford)
• Bangladeshis are concentrated in Tower Hamlets, Camden, Luton, Oldham and the West Midlands.

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