Ethnic minorities living in the UK feel more British than white Britons

2 July 2012

Ethnic minorities identify more closely with Britishness than their white counterparts, says the largest study of race carried out to date in the UK.

Professor Lucinda Platt of the Institute of Education, University of London, and Dr Alita Nandi of the Institute for Social and Economic Research, examined how British people feel about their nationality. They found that almost all minorities identify more strongly as British than the white majority, suggesting fears about ethnic minority groups being unwilling or unable to integrate may be considerably overstated. Significant numbers of white British people responded that they feel little or no association with “being British”.

Key findings include:

  • all minorities (other than mixed) identify more strongly as British than the white majority
  • Muslim Pakistanis are not any more likely to have a strong minority identification than any other group – in fact the opposite is true
  • Indians, black Africans, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Middle Eastern Muslims associate most closely with Britishness
  • white, Chinese and Afro-Caribbeans associate least closely with Britishness
  • identification with Britishness is higher among the children and grandchildren of migrants.

“Given the current anxiety around immigration and concerns that it is challenging a unified national identity, it is interesting to find that minorities in fact hold stronger British identities on average than the majority,” said Professor Platt. “We also see that they frequently manage dual identities, rather than opposing one to the other. Among the majority, individual country identities such as Scottish or Welsh can be held alongside a British identity, but in many cases seem to substitute for it.”

The research is based on data from Understanding Society, a longitudinal study of 40,000 UK households. The full paper, How diverse is the UK and How British is the UK, will be presented this week at the Economic and Social Research Council’s Research Methods Festival in Oxford.

Selection of media coverage of the research:

The Times: ‘Muslims are truest of true Brits, claims study into national sense of belonging’, 30 June 2012, pp. 4-5.

Guardian: ‘Ethnic minorities in UK feel most British, research finds

Express: ‘Minorities “feel more British”

London Evening Standard: ‘Minorities “feel more British”

Daily Mail: ‘Muslims more likely to consider themselves British than their white counterparts