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The rise of mixed race Britain

A new report commissioned from ISER’s Lucinda Platt shows there is a new and growing diversity among young people that makes the very concept of black and white harder and harder to define.

Ethnicity and Family: Relationships Within and Between Ethnic Groups, produced for the Equality and Human and Rights Commission, indicates that the percentage of young people from ethnic minority backgrounds is on the rise, as is the number of young people from families with mixed heritages. According to the report, if current trends continue, ethnic minorities and those from mixed race backgrounds will make up an increasingly large proportion of the population in the future.

20 percent of young people under the age of 16 are from an ethnic minority background, compared to fifteen percent of the total population.

  • 3 percent of children under 16 are mixed race, compared to 0.5 percent of adults.
  • Nearly 10 percent of children under 16 live in a family with heritages from more than one ethnic group.
  • The average age for someone of a mixed race background is significantly younger than their white counterparts – 16 for those from mixed white and Caribbean backgrounds and 18 for mixed white and Asian backgrounds – compared to an average age of 40 for white British people.

The report also looks at the rise of inter-ethnic relationships, which it notes have often been seen as indicative of the extent of openness in different societies and of the extent to which identities are adapting and changing over time. They are, according to the report, ‘taken to be a thermometer of ethnic relations in particular societies’.

  • 48 percent of Black Caribbean men are in mixed race relationships.
  • 34 percent of Black Caribbean women are in mixed race relationships.
  • Overall, younger people from most ethnic backgrounds are more likely to be in mixed race relationships; 10 percent of 16-29 year olds, compared to 8 percent of 30-59 year olds.

Lucinda Platt suggests that the decline in partnerships among people from the same ethnic background may reflect a general view that race itself does not provide as meaningful a basis when selecting a partner, compared to other things young people may have in common like education, friends, attitudes and beliefs.

A spokesperson for the Equality and Human Rights Commission said:

’Britain is changing in a remarkable way. One in five of our children are from an ethnic minority background and young people are six times more likely to be mixed race compared to adults. The old, polarising debate about black and white is changing and the next generation will not see race in the same way we see it.

‘This is hugely positive and we can afford a moment to celebrate: Britain’s diverse culture is becoming all the more fascinating and inter-connected. But we can’t afford to be complacent, because we face other challenges. We need to be alert to tensions within communities that may be exacerbated by the economic downturn and remain vigilant against discrimination and divisiveness – particularly across boundaries of faith.’

Related Links

Ethnicity and Family: Relationships Within and Between Ethnic Groups – donwload the report.

Revealed: the rise of mixed-race BritainThe Observer, Sunday 18 January 2009.

Mixed-race family rise ‘dramatic’BBC, Sunday 18 January 2009.