White BritishThe White British group 

Total population in Britain: 50,366,497
Proportion of all people in Britain: 88%
Source: Census 2001, Office for National Statistics; Census 2001 General Register Office for Scotland

The indigenous population of Britain, English, Scottish and Welsh, is classified in the Census in England and Wales as White British. The majority of people identified as this group, 98 per cent, were born in the UK. In Scotland, White British is not a Census category; instead there is a choice of White Scottish and Other White British. The figures in this text are a conflation of thee categories from the Census 2001 Scotland and the White British category from the Census 2001 England and Wales.

Age profile

The White British population has an older profile then most other groups, with a high proportion of people above retirement age. There are fairly equal numbers of men and women, although as the population gets older women out number men which reflects their longer average life expectancy. There are a couple of distinct surges in the population among people in their 50s and 30s which is the result of the baby boom after the Second World War and again in the 1960s.


Historically Britain has been a Christian country, and 76 per cent of the White British population continue to describe themselves as Christians. A significant number, 15 per cent, state they have no religion. The third largest group among White Britons is Jewish and, although they make up only 0.4 per cent of the ethnic groups, they comprise the majority, 84 per cent, of Jews in Britain.


The White Irish group 

Total population in Britain: 691,000
Proportion of all people in Britain: 1.2%
Source: Census 2001, Office for National Statistics; Census 2001 General Register Office for Scotland

Britain has historically been one of the favoured destinations for Irish migrants. For hundreds of years Britain offered the prospect of financial betterment to people living in poverty in Ireland. This was especially true in the nineteenth century when the Industrial Revolution led to a period of economic growth and migrants from Ireland were virtually guaranteed work in construction or the factories. The deprivations of the Great Famine (1845-50) also encouraged people to cross the Irish Sea.

Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth century migration continued and the introduction of immigration quotas in America in the 1930s resulted in a further increase in the numbers coming to Britain. There has also been a long tradition of migration by Irish writers and artists which has seen Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw and Francis Bacon, among others, absorbed into British cultural consciousness.

Patterns of migration

Historically Liverpool was the first point of arrival for Irish migrants, and in 1861 a quarter of the city's population was Irish-born. The major industrial centres, particularly London but also Manchester, London and Glasgow, housed significant Irish populations and this is still true today.

Despite this mass migration from Ireland, the number of people identifying themselves as Irish in the 2001 Census was relatively small. This is thought to be the result of a number of factors: people returning to Ireland; the unwillingness of people born in Ireland or their descendants to identify themselves as Irish, this is especially likely for people born in Northern Ireland and; because many children in houses headed by White Irish people were identified as White British.

The fact that many people of Irish origin, but not birth, now identify themselves as White British rather than White Irish distinguishes the Irish in Britain from many non-white ethnic groups in which British-born descendants tend to keep their parents' ethnic classification. It also skews the age profile of the White Irish population, as only one in every 16 members of the community are under the age of 16.


The White Irish population has the largest proportion of Christians of any ethnic group in Britain: 86 per cent identified themselves as such.

The Other White group 

Total population in Britain: 1,423,471
Proportion of all people in Britain: 2.5%
Source: Census 2001, Office for National Statistics; Census 2001 General Register Office for Scotland

The category Other White does not comprise a single ethnic group but is instead a method of identification for white people who are not represented by other white Census categories.  This means that Other White contains a diverse collection of people with different countries of birth, religions and languages.

Four out of five members of the Other White group were born overseas, with a third (34 per cent) born in western Europe. At 215,113, the German-born population in Britain is the third largest foreign-born population in Britain after Indians and Pakistanis. One in seven (14 per cent) of the Other White group were born in eastern Europe, and one in ten (10 per cent) were born in North America.

Age profile

The Other White group is largely of working age, with only one in ten aged over 65 and one in seven under 16. This does vary according to the stated country of birth, with people born in the UK being disproportionately young. Polish and Italian respondents had a larger proportion of over 65s, which reflects the migration of Poles and Italians to Britain after the Second World War.

Patterns of migration

In the period 1991-2001, the number of Poles in Britain declined, but since Polish accession to the EU in 2004 this trend has reversed and figures from the Home Office reveal that 264,560 Poles registered to work in Britain between 2004 and 2006. The majority of these new Polish migrants to Britain are of working age (82 per cent aged between 16 and 34), and the majority are employed.


A wide number of religions are represented in the Other White group. The largest faith group, 63 per cent, identified themselves as Christian, with 16 per cent defining themselves as without religion, nine per cent as Muslims, and two per cent as Jewish.


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