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British attitudes to ethnic minorities and immigrants: generational change and the slow decline of discrimination Robert Ford Postdoctoral Research Fellow CCSR, University of Manchester Rob.email@example.com
Key Findings • Prejudice against ethnic minorities is declining in Britain • This decline is primarily a generational process: slow overall change masks dramatic shifts between generations • While overall opposition to immigration remains high, discrimination between immigrant groups is declining • Once again, this is a generational process, with younger Britons much less likely to discriminate against non-white migrants
Mass immigration and ethnic diversity are recent developments • Net emigration from Britain to Empire 1870-1950 • Mass migration from Commonwealth began in early 1950s, avg 50,000 p.a. since: • British EM population 1951: 80,000 • British EM population 2001: 4,635,000 • Further boost to migration from international commitments (EU, asylum conventions)
Why do attitudes towards ethnic minorities and immigrants matter? • Disadvantages EMs suffer due to discrimination • Worse outcomes in employment, education, health, housing • Hostility to minorities could undermine community cohesion and social capital (Putnam, 2007) • Immigration has been a potent political issue: • Mainstream: Powell, Thatcher, Howard? • Far right: Nat Front, BNP • Large scale immigration is likely to continue • Population ageing; International commitments
Two studies: ethnic minorities and immigrants • Both use British Social Attitudes data 1983-1996 • 1.Ethnic minorities • “social distance” indicators • Attitudes to black and Asian minority groups • 2. Immigrants • “Reduce immigration” question • Attitudes to immigrants from four regions
Four arguments for a decline in racial prejudice in Britain • Declining legitimacy of claims for white political, economic or cultural superiority • Elite adoption of multicultural consensus celebrating diversity and sanctioning prejudice • Ethnic minorities now an unquestioned part of the British “imagined community” • Rising levels of white social contact with black and Asian Britons, as minority populations grow and disperse socially and geographically
The social distribution of prejudice: education, class and gender • Those with higher levels of education found to express less prejudice in multiple studies (Sullivan and Transue, 1999; Hello et al, 2006). • Rising education levels since 1950s may contribute to fall in prejudice • Economic competition with minorities (for jobs, housing, benefits) may increase hostility. Such competition likely to be concentrated in working classes and those dependent on state benefits. • Many studies have found prejudice more strongly expressed by men, who also predominate in extreme right parties • Exposure to, and response to, factors reducing prejudice may be socially differentiated, resulting in attitudinal divergence
Is prejudice about culture as well as race? • British academics in 1970s/80s argued that cultural differences of minor relevance as a source of prejudice; blacks and Asians united by common experience of white rejection (Gilroy, 1987; Solomos, 1989) • More recent analysis argues that while visible racial difference is important for identifying group members, the source of hostility lies in cultural differences: “South Asians…are clearly visible as a non-white group: they are a principal object of racist victimization, of negative treatment by whites on the grounds that they are an undesirable “Other”. They suffer, therefore, from color racism. But they also suffer from cultural racism: a certain culture is attributed to them, is vilified, and is even the ground for discrimination…. This means that Asians, more than blacks, suffer a double racism.”(Modood, 2005, p.7, emphasis added)
Methods • Ordered logistic regression analysis of pooled (7 survey) dataset • Effects estimated for attitudes to black and Asian groups separately • Controls for class, education, gender, unemployment, council tenure, lifecycle events • Interactions to test for variation in generational shifts for different social groups. • Significant interactions found for gender, class and education
Data and methods • Pooled dataset of seven British Social Attitudes surveys conducted between 1983-1996. N = 11,970 • “Social distance” measures of prejudice employed: • Would you mind working for a black/Asian boss? • Would you mind if a close relative married a black/Asian person? • Ordered responses – “Don’t mind”, “Mind a little” and “Mind a lot”, therefore ordered logistic regression carried out • Randomly split samples – half in each survey asked about “black” racial group, half about “Asian”. Separate models estimated for each group • Period and cohort divergence in attitudes tested using interaction variables
This generational shift is the main driver behind the decline in prejudice
To summarise… • Britain is coming to terms with diversity • This is a generational shift, and is likely to continue… • Hostility to white-Muslim intermarriage in 2003: 27% • However, significant prejudices remain, and are likely to decline only slowly • Reactions to both minorities very similar; little evidence of “cultural racism”. • Attitudes are more polarised among the young: • Prejudice virtually unknown among highly qualified and women; remains common among the unqualified and men
Immigrants: hypotheses • The perceived threat immigrants pose to national cultural unity is a key factor driving European opposition to immigrants (Ivarflaten, 2006; Sides and Citrin, 2007) • Groups that are more visible and more culturally different will be perceived as more threatening and will be more opposed • There will therefore be an “ethnic hierarchy” in immigration preferences, with two dimensions: • Race: White immigrants preferred • Culture: Immigrant groups with more “British” culture (language, religion) preferred • Younger generations will be less concerned about cultural/racial difference; they will discriminate less
Younger generations oppose immigration less, and discriminate less
Summary • White British people are becoming more tolerant of ethnic minorities and more open to immigration • But this is happening slowly… • …because prejudiced and discriminatory attitudes, once formed, are hard to remove… • Change is primarily generational • Even though change between cohorts is rapid… • …cohorts stick around a long time, so the overall rate change is slow