Census shows ‘huge’ variation in housing and education among ethnic groups

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Levels of home-ownership, good health and educational qualification “vary considerably” across ethnic groups in England and Wales, new census data reveals.

People identifying as black African or Caribbean have some of the lowest proportions of home ownership but are among the highest for social rented housing, while more than half of those identifying as Chinese or Indian have a high-level qualification such as a degree, compared with under a third in the white British group.

The poorest levels of health are among the white Irish and white Gypsy or Irish Traveller groups.

The census took place in England and Wales on March 21 2021 and results are being published in stages by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Everyone who took part in the census was asked to indicate which group best described their ethnic identity, along with a range of questions on housing, education and health.

Around 17% of the population in England and Wales told the census they live in social rented housing, but there is “huge” variation among different groups, the ONS found.

Within the “black, black British, black Welsh, Caribbean or African” group, 44% of people who identify as African live in social rented accommodation, such as from a council or housing association, along with 41% of people identifying as Caribbean and 48% as “other black”.

These levels are higher than almost every other group, in particular white Irish (14%), Pakistani (13%), Chinese (8%) and Indian (5%), while the figure for “white English, Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish or British” is 16%.

In sharp contrast, home-ownership is most common for people who identify as Indian (71%) and for those in the white UK group (68%), with similarly high figures for the white Irish (67%), Pakistani (65%) and Chinese (64%) groups.

Levels are much lower among the black African (23%) and “other black” groups (29%), with 42% for people identifying as black Caribbean.

The figures do not include communal establishments, such as university halls of residence or care homes.

Just over a third (34%) of everyone aged 16 or over in England and Wales told the census they have a higher-level qualification, such as a degree or NVQ level 4 to 5 – but this figure jumps to more than half of people who identify as Chinese or Indian, at 56% and 52% respectively.

Similarly high levels were recorded for the African (49%) and Arab (46%) groups, but the figure for people identifying as white English, Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish or British stood at 31%, below the Pakistani (32%) and Caribbean (34%) groups.

Those who identify within the “white: Gypsy or Irish Traveller” group have the lowest proportion of people with a higher-level qualification (11%) and are also most likely to have no formal qualifications (57%).

The ONS said: “The census tells us about people’s lives, whether people were working, or living in a crowded home, how much education they had received, and if they considered themselves in good or poor health.

“We found that these outcomes varied considerably for ethnic groups across England and Wales.”

The census also asked people to rate their health from “very good”, “good”, “fair”, “bad” or “very bad”.

Across the whole population of England and Wales, nearly half (48%) said they had “very good” health and 1% said they had “very bad” health.

People who identified as white Gypsy or Irish Traveller had the highest percentage of those saying their health was very bad at 4%, with a further 9% saying their health was bad.

Among the white Irish group, 2% said their health was very bad and 6% bad.

“Health is closely related to age, with older people being more likely to say they are in poorer health,” the ONS found.

“For the white Irish group, this partly explains the difference in health outcomes – people in this group are generally much older, with an average (median) age of 54 years, compared with 40 years for the whole population.

“However, the poorer health of people identifying as white Gypsy or Irish Traveller is not explained by age, because people in this ethnic group are generally young. The average age for this ethnic group is just 28 years.”

The highest levels of very good health are among people in the “mixed or multiple ethnic group” of “white and Asian” (67%) and people who identify as black African (65%).

For the white English, Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish or British group, 46% reported very good health, 5% bad health and 1% very bad health.

“Many of these outcomes will be influenced by how young or old people are within each ethnic group,” the ONS added.

“They will also overlap. People in poor health or caring for others may be less able to work or gain education.

“Income and where people live will also have a large effect on how people live, as well as any cultural differences.”

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