The evolution and stability of multi‐ethnic residential neighbourhoods in England

Gemma Catney, Richard Wright, Mark Ellis

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This paper analyses the most ethnically diverse spaces in England. We define multi-ethnic neighbourhoods as spaces where no one group is in a majority and at least five ethnic groups have representation. Around four percent of all English neighbourhoods (Lower Layer Super Output Areas) met these criteria in 2011. Often mislabelled as ‘segregated’ spaces, the growth of ethnically diverse neighbourhoods helps benchmark increased inter-ethnic contact, yet we know very little about their spatial extent and the dynamics of their expansion. We use Census data for 1991, 2001 and 2011 to consider how neighbourhood-level diversity has changed during a period of substantial increase in ethnic diversity at the national scale. To what extent did these highly diverse areas grow, and what is the geography of that growth? Which types of areas did these neighbourhoods transition from? For example, were multi-ethnic neighbourhoods formerly low- or moderately diverse, and which groups dominated these locales? We also consider if multi-ethnic neighbourhoods are here to stay, or if they are compositionally unstable. We reveal a surprising aspect in England’s neighbourhood transitions: multi-ethnic neighbourhoods are highly stable, and increasingly so. Some 88 percent of neighbourhoods that were multi-ethnic in 1991 retained their high-diversity status in 2001, while over 95 percent of 2001 multi-ethnic neighbourhoods remained highly diverse by 2011. This is a different story to that of the US, where high-diversity neighbourhoods have received more scholarly attention, and where these neighbourhoods have high attrition rates, functioning as stepping stones to another type of space. We explore the demographic and housing dynamics associated with this stability.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTransactions of the Institute of British Geographers
Early online date29 Sep 2020
Publication statusEarly online date - 29 Sep 2020

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