Poverty rates among ethnic groups in Great Britain

Guy Palmer and Peter Kenway
30th Apr 2007

A discussion of how the rates of income poverty differ between different ethnic groups and analysis of the reasons for some of these differences.

Using the relative income measure which has been used to assess the Government’s progress on child poverty reduction, this report includes:

  • A presentation of the latest income poverty rates for different ethnic groups in Great Britain, mentioning:
    • how these rates have changed over the last decade; and 
    • how they differ by age structure, family type, family work status and geography.
  • An overview of key facts about the size, location, concentration and work rates of the major ethnic groups in Great Britain as per the 2001 Census.
  • Analysis of how far the differences in income poverty rates can be accounted for by differences in the population mix between ethnic groups by age structure, family type and work status.

Available in electronic format only.



As part of its monitoring of poverty and social exclusion (see www.poverty.org.uk), the New Policy Institute has analysed how the rates of income poverty differ between ethnic groups and the reasons for some of these differences. It finds:

  • The income poverty rate varies substantially between ethnic groups: Bangladeshis (65%), Pakistanis (55%) and black Africans (45%) have the highest rates; black Caribbeans (30%), Indians (25%), white Other (25%) and white British (20%) have the lowest rates.
  • For all ethnic groups, the income poverty rate appears to have fallen at a roughly similar pace over the last decade.
  • For all ages, family types and family work statuses, people from minority ethnic groups are, on average, much more likely to be in income poverty than white British people.
  • The differences are particularly great for families where at least one adult is in paid work: in these families, around 60% of Bangladeshis, 40% of Pakistanis and 30% of black Africans are in income poverty. This is much higher than the 10-15% for white British, white Other, Indians and black Caribbeans.
  • For white British people, income poverty rates are similar across the country. For people from minority ethnic groups, however, income poverty rates are much higher in inner London and the English North and Midlands than elsewhere.
  • 70% of those in income poverty in inner London are from minority ethnic groups, as are 50% in outer London.
  • Differences in age, family type and family work status account for around half – but only half – of the 'excess' income poverty rates suffered by minority ethnic groups compared with white British people.
  • Of the three factors, family work status has the biggest effect for the Bangladeshi and Pakistani population. This is because of the high proportion of working-age Bangladeshis and Pakistanis, particularly women, who are not in paid work.
  • Family type has the biggest effect for the black Caribbean population, with both family type and work status having an effect for the black African population. In both cases, the prevalence of lone parents within these ethnic groups is an important factor.


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