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Ethnicity of the London Population

Updated on November 3, 2013

London is undoubtedly the most cosmopolitan city in Europe. Some commentators go further and view London as the most multiracial city in the world. The diverse ethnicity of the capital is exemplified by the fact that over 200 languages are spoken within its boundaries. The lobby group Migration Watch estimate that two-thirds of immigration into Britain since the mid-1990s has been into London. Within the UK the process of racial assimilation is much more advanced in London than anywhere else.

  • Almost 30% of people in London were born outside the UK compared with 2.9% in the North East.
  • In 2000, 6% of all new solicitors in London were black or Asian, and a third of London’s doctors are now non-white.
  • London has the highest proportion of each ethnic minority group apart from Pakistanis and Indians

Just over 50% of London’s population described themselves as white British in the 2001 census. A further 14% are either white Irish or white other [Europeans, Americans, Australians, New Zealanders etc.] There are now more ethnically African residents [8%] in London than black Caribbean. The largest Asian community is Bangladeshis [5%]. The 2001 census provided the first ever figures for mixed-race.

London’s non-white population, 28.8% of the capital’s total, is the largest of any European city. Demographers at the Greater London Authority predict that, due to continuing immigration, this will rise to a third of London’s population within the next ten years.

London is the destination for most of Britain’s 185,000 new immigrants each year. The biggest growth will be in London’s Asian communities, which still have relatively large families, and also black Africans, due mainly to migration. It is also likely that the number of British-born children of Afro-Caribbean and mixed parentage will increase at a significant rate.

This does not conform to the clear high ethnic minority inner city/ low ethnic minority suburban contrast evident in so many other cities in the developed world. Certainly a number of boroughs fit this model, for example the outer suburban arc from Havering in the north east to Richmond upon Thames in the south west. Apart from Croydon, all the boroughs in this arc have non-white ethnic group population below 20%. Also strongly following expectations are Lambeth, Southwark, Lewisham, Tower Hamlets and Hackney - a group of inner city boroughs that are all above 30% on the same measure.

However, on the other side of the coin the two boroughs with the highest % population non-white [Newham and Brent] are classed as outer London boroughs.

Two other outer London boroughs, Ealing and Harrow, have figures in excess of 40% with Hounslow, Haringey, Waltham Forest and Redbridge exceeding the 30% mark. A much more complicated picture still would be presented by examining figures at ward and enumeration district levels where the concept of the urban mosaic really becomes apparent. For example in Tower Hamlets, the Bangladeshi population ranges from 58.1% in the ward of Spitalfields and Banglatown to 10% in the Bow East ward. Detailed analysis of census data shows that the ethnic Asian population lives in wards with higher levels of ethnic minority concentration than the Black population.

The Neasden temple: People will often move close to their place of worship.
The Neasden temple: People will often move close to their place of worship.

Factors affecting concentration

A range of factors affect ethnic concentration:

  • there is a tendency for more recent immigrants to live in wards with a high ethnic minority concentration
  • those who are not fluent in English are more likely to live in areas with a high ethnic minority concentration
  • those in the highest social classes live in areas with a lower concentration of ethnic minority communities
  • higher levels of qualification are also associated with lower levels of ethnic minority concentration
  • the more paid workers there are in a household, the less likely they areto live in areas with a high concentration of ethnic minority population.

Ethnic villages

The concept of ethnic villages often appears in newspapers, magazines and academic journals. Ethnic villages to a greater or lesser extent show clear evidence of the groups residing within their areas in terms of shops, places of worship, schools, cinemas, newspapers, social facilities, advertising and of course street presence. For example, the German school in Richmond and the nearby German bakery, the only one in London, have become key reference points for the capital’s German community. The French Lycee [a school] in Kensington assumes a similar role. The UK is home to the second largest expatriate French population after the USA, with a very significant proportion of this group living in London. Evidence of the presence of larger and non-white ethnic groups is of course much more obvious.

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    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

      Very fascinating analysis. Makes sense, because at one point London was practically the world's capital, with the British Empire spanning the globe. Great hub!

    • carlarmes profile image

      carlarmes 3 years ago from Bournemouth, England

      Going to the city is like visiting another country these days. London is changing into a global city state. Interesting place to visit but would never want to live there, they call it the flight of the white.

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