New report fails to highlight most important fact about poverty and ethnicity

9th May 2014

What’s the most important fact about ethnicity in the UK? There’s higher poverty among all ethnic minority groups than among White British people, says Helen Barnard.

What’s the most important fact about ethnicity in the UK? There’s higher poverty among all ethnic minority groups than among White British people, says Helen Barnard.

A new report out this week painted a fascinating picture of some of the biggest ethnic minority groups in Britain. ‘A Portrait of Modern Britain’, from the think tank Policy Exchange, gives a detailed overview of the background, geography, health, education, political profile and household composition of the five largest ethnic minority groups in Britain: Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Black African people and Black Caribbean people. We welcome the overarching message of the report that Britain’s black and minority ethnic population is large, growing and diverse and that politicians and policy makers need to get to grips with this.

However, the report does not highlight one of the most important facts about ethnicity in Britain: there is more poverty in every ethnic minority group than among the White British population.

Percentage of individuals in households with incomes below 60% median

Figure 1: Poverty rates by ethnic group, HBAI, June 2013

Next week the Joseph Rowntree Foundation will be publishing a report about an issue at the heart of families across all ethnic groups: how to balance caring for children and adults with earning enough to get by. Caring for disabled adults and children is associated with particularly high levels of poverty, especially among ethnic minority groups. The report shows that the risks of poverty associated with living with a disabled family member are higher among Pakistani and Bangladeshi children (57% and 66% respectively) than for Black Caribbean and Black African children (42% and 44%). The risk of poverty for White children living with a disabled family member was 28%.

The research also highlights the changing demographics in many ethnic minority communities in the UK. Groups which have previously been dominated by younger people are ageing. Already, 14% of the Black Caribbean population is over 65, compared to 19% of White British people, 4% of Bangladeshi and Pakistani and 2% of Black African groups. By 2051, it is estimated that 15% of Black Caribbean, 12% of Pakistani and 12% of Black African people will be over 65. This trend puts fresh emphasis on the importance of getting social care and support for informal carers right across all ethnic groups.