IGP Stories

Ethnicity and prosperity in east London


Farah Khokhar

The experience of systemic racism and inequality has not only put Black and Minority ethnic groups (BAME) at greater risk of dying from Covid-19 but also made them more vulnerable to the economic impacts of the pandemic. After Black Lives Matter grew increasingly popular in 2020 and after witnessing the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on Black and Minority ethnic groups a growing number of studies continue to provide evidence of existing and ongoing socioeconomic and racial inequalities. The urgency to address the intersecting nature of systemic racial, social and economic inequalities has become greater than ever and emergent phenomena such as the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 signal the need for meaningful place-based policies.

In response, the IGP has written the working paper Ethnicity and prosperity in east London analysing the impact of race and ethnicity on levels of prosperity and attainment of the good life. Using data from the household survey in 2017 and citizen social scientist led data in east London in 2015, IGP have found a marked difference between the experiences of prosperity amongst non-BAME and BAME citizens. The government’s landmark Levelling Up White Paper shows a clear consideration of bettering the socioeconomic standing and position of BAME communities and citizens, highlighting an effort to move towards a version of prosperity that is equitable and equal. Boosting livelihoods and opportunity are vital to rejuvenate and recover from the pandemic’s ruthlessness.

In the Ethnicity and prosperity in east London paper the authors outline the foundations of prosperity as four interconnected dimensions: “secure, regular and good quality work that provides a reliable and adequate income; secure and genuinely affordable, good quality housing in a safe neighbourhood; access to public services and social infrastructure (healthcare, care, education, digital communication, transport); and inclusion in the economic and social life of the city and local community” (Woodcraft, Charalambous, Pietrostefani, 2021). However, the four foundations of prosperity are not adequately evident in BAME communities. Research shows that only 2% of white people feel unsafe in their neighbourhood in comparison to 10% of people with mixed or multiple ethnic backgrounds and 12% belonging to other ethnic groups. The stark dissimilarity proves a difference in experience. However, the differing experience of feeling unsafe is not an isolated difference: 41% of mixed and multiple ethnic citizens felt dissatisfied with the local health care services compared to 11% of the white community. Feeling insecure about safety, services and one’s future all effects the ability to achieve prosperity and the good life.

One of the tenants of prosperity is good quality housing. The data suggests that the distribution of the different ethnic groups between private-rented and affordable and social-rented accommodation is disproportional. The percentage of people with a White ethnic background who live in private-rented accommodation is significantly higher than the percentage of people from Black ethnic groups. 42% of people from White ethnic groups and only 12% of people with Black ethnic background live in private-rented accommodation while almost two thirds of the latter group (71%) live in affordable and social-rented accommodation. The rate of in-work poverty is substantial and contributes to unequal housing, housing insecurity and hindrances to prosperity and attainment of the good life.

The income related inequality and housing security are factors that have an immediate effect on livelihoods and the level of insecurity that people may experience. Two other factors that might contribute to higher levels of insecurity about one’s livelihood are unemployment and financial stress. The relationship between the employment status of the respondents and their ethnic background suggests that one in ten people from Black ethnic groups (11%) is unemployed and looking for paid work compared to less than three in one hundred people from White ethnic groups (3%), which is a significant difference. Respondents were also asked whether they are up to date with all their household bills such as electricity, gas, telephone, or if they are behind with any of them. The data shows that only 1.7% of people from White ethnic groups are not up to date with household bills compared to 23% of people from the Mixed or Multiple ethnic groups.

The governments Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report has four main themes (build trust, promote fairness, create agency, achieve inclusivity). Especially after the pandemic the necessity to work proactively is of upmost importance. Their schemes to tackle poverty address the ethnicity pay gap is a step in the right direction, yet still fails to acknowledge or fix major issues at hand: BAME households are between two and three times more likely to be in persistent poverty (Social Metrics Commission. 2020). The Social Metrics Commission also state that in 2018-19, just under one in five white families were in poverty. Comparing this to the fact that nearly half of Black African Caribbean households (46%), 42% of Other ethnic groups, 39% of Asian/Asian British households and 32% of mixed ethnicity households are in poverty highlights the need for a reimagination and rethinking of how we can address racialised differences in our society. Simply addressing and investigating an issue does not ensure action. We must work together to use the statistics found throughout our research to facilitate positive and equitable change for all.

Read the Ethnicity and prosperity in east London working paper

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