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Britain - more mixed than we thought

Specially-commissioned research using Understanding Society was featured on the BBC’s Newsnight Programme recently showing that Britain’s mixed race population may be twice the size of official figures.

The research by Alita Nandi made use of the Wave 1 questionnaire the survey which asks participants about the ethnicity of their parents rather than the more common self-reported ethnicity status question asking people to register their ethnicity as e.g White, Black Caribbean etc.

Alita Nandi said:

“If we use this alternative definition of mixed then 1.99% of adults are of mixed parentage. More than twice as many over-16-year-olds are technically mixed race than describe themselves that way.”

Self-definition also applies to under-16s (parents will normally described the ethnicity of their children) and this group accounts for half of the mixed race population.

There is research evidence which suggests the number of mixed-ethnicity children is also significantly larger than the official figures show. Self-reported data show 2.9% of children described as mixed race. But the proportion of children living with parents from different ethnic groups or in a mixed-race household is shown to be 8.9%.

Further support for the contention that the number of mixed-race children is under-counted emerges from work on single parents. The proportion of children in lone-parent households who are of a different ethnicity to the single mum or dad is 8%.

Writing in his BBC blog, Home Editor Mark Easton, who presented the report, commented:

“This suggests to me that there may be around two million mixed race people living in the UK, 3% of the population and therefore a larger group than any of the defined "ethnic minorities. The most recent estimate from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) is that there are 956,700 “mixed persons” in England, 1.8% of the English population."

And he added:

“Despite its growth and however you measure it, the mixed race population still represents barely more than 3% of Brits. But it is increasing fast – and those who predicted a cultural identity crisis have been proved wrong. If anything, in multiracial Britain, ethnicity is increasingly not the point. Mixed race is mainstream.”

The programme was part of a BBC series of programmes looking at mixed race Britain. The series was heavily influenced by ISER research carried out by Lucinda Platt.