Glasgow Refugee Asylum and Migration Network (GRAMNet)

Bringing together researchers, practitioners and policy makers working with migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in Scotland

How have migrant experiences in the UK changed over time?

One of the central questions driving the new Centre on the Dynamics of Ethnicity (CoDE) is how have migrant experiences in the UK changed over time? The new ESRC funded centre launched this week at an event in Manchester. The centre brings together quantitative and qualitative researchers from across the UK in a new programme of work focused on the understanding the patterning of ethnic inequalities and the ways in which ethnic inequalities are perceived, acted upon and experienced.

I attended the launch event on behalf of GRAMnet and took on the role of tweeting from the conference. Thanks to some coaching from our social networking guru Giuliana, I can now count myself as one of those people who know about hash tags and retweeting and favouriting and other twitterisms. Those of you who are hesitating to enter the world of twitter and are a bit ambivalent; I would describe it as a conversation that runs in tandem with the conference. The aim is to try to identify the key messages and salient points from the presentations and discussions and then send these out to other people in the form of short messages (tweets). The tweets link you directly to the key people, websites and papers where the more meaty information can be found. So if there is a GRAMNet conference or event you are interested in but can’t attend you can follow it on the GRAMNet twitter account #GRAM_Net and get a feel for the important points without being physically there. The only way to learn it is by doing it, so next time you go to a event that might interest other GRAMNet members you might consider tweeting yourself. I suggest you try to sit next to someone at the conference who can help. I sat next to Andy Smith, from the Sociology department at Glasgow University. Andy is particularly involved with the qualitative component of the CoDE research programme, and although he confessed to being clueless about twitter, however he provided valuable moral support!

The CoDE launch event presented findings from recent analysis of the 2011 Census data for England and Wales and introduced four case study sites: Glasgow, Cardiff, Manchester and the London Borough of Newham. The sites have been selected on the basis of their historical role as gateways for new migrants to the UK and ethnographic research will be used to examine dominant representations of ethnicity and stereotypes in these areas
(Contact Andy Smith:, Lindsey Garratt:

Ludi Simpson presented evidence of growth in all minority groups 1991-2011 and described minority populations as spreading out and becoming more evenly dispersed. However, ethnicity has grown in part because of changes in the ways we measure it. White British was not a category until the 2001 census and new categories were added in 2011: Gypsy and Traveller, and Arab. The ways in which decisions are taken to include or exclude ethnic census categories remains an important and under-explored question.

The 2011 Census of England and Wales introduced for the first time the question: How would you describe your national identity? Respondents were asked to describe their own identity as well as answering the ‘tick the box’ ethnic identity question. The findings were that minority ethnic groups were more likely to describe themselves as British whereas white British more likely to say English and English only. Mixed white Caribbean also describe themselves as English only suggesting that Englishness is not a white preserve. There was also some geographical variation. People who identified as British only were more likely to live in London and those who said they were English only tended to live in rural areas outside the capital. These findings raise a number of questions as to the process of identity making and indicate the possibility of an ‘asymmetric multiculturalism’ in which British identity only works for certain minorities. Alternatively, it could be that English identity is achieved over time with white entry into Englishness first and British identity serving merely as a stage in a generational movement towards a more localised identity. What does this mean for the inclusiveness of Scottish identity?

Sunder Katwala (@sundersays) of British Futures raised the important question of how to increase public confidence in a diverse and changing society. The integration debate is divided on whether the integration cup is half empty or half full. On the one hand there is evidence of increasing diversity and mixing and on the other hand the public debate implies not enough integration is occurring. The gap in perspectives may be an issue of visibility. Integration is invisible, whereas problematic segregation is visible. If integration works then the categories made visible by the census will become meaningless. Are you Irish, black or white or mixed? Who knows? The challenge for practitioners, researchers and policy makers is to make visible the untold stories of migration and integration and to examine inter-generational changes in attitudes in places like the East End of London and the south-side of Glasgow.


Despite its limitations, the Census data from 2011 provides important evidence on the nature of social inequalities. The analysis from CoDE shows that in England and Wales the same ethnic groups who that are disadvantaged in labour and housing markets also face health disadvantage. There has been a rise in private renting for all ethnic groups and discrimination is a likely cause of persistent ethnic inequalities in housing.

For more detailed information see the Briefings on The Dynamics of Diversity: evidence from the 2011 Census, Twitter: #ethnicityuk @EthnicityUK.
Census data for England and Wales can be downloaded here.
Briefings and analysis of the Scottish Census data will be available from CoDE by the end of the year.
In the meantime, the Scottish Census data is available from here.

Claire Bynner @ClaireBynner


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This entry was posted on November 7, 2013 by in Comment.