Ethnic minorities living in the UK feel more British than white Britons

New research examining how British people feel about their nationality has revealed that people from ethnic minority backgrounds identify more closely with Britishness than their white counterparts.

The findings show that fears expressed by some groups about the negative impacts of immigration on cultural identity may be considerably overstated. In particular, Muslims from a Pakistani background, often said to associate more strongly with their own national identity as opposed to where they are living now, in the survey say quite the reverse.

The researchers also point to the significant numbers of White British people who feel little or no association with “being British”.

The research is being presented next week at the ESRC Research Methods Festival in Oxford by Dr Alita Nandi, who makes use of new information collected as part of a major household survey called Understanding Society.

The research showed that:

  • All minorities (other than mixed) identify more strongly as British than the White majority
  • Muslim Pakistanis are not any more likely to have a strong minority identification than any other group – in fact the opposite
  • Indians, Black Africans, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Middle Eastern Muslims associate most closely with Britishness
  • White, Chinese and Afro-Caribbeans associate least closely with Britishness
  • Identification with Britishness is higher among the children and grandchildren of migrants

Dr Nandi, who is based at the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex, said:

“There is a huge emphasis in public and policy discourse on immigration and its potential challenge to cultural homogeneity and national identity. Our research shows that people we might assume would feel very British, in fact do not – while others who we might assume would not associate themselves with feelings of Britishness, in fact do.”

She added:

“Many people seem to manage dual identities, and it’s interesting to note that in all the ethnic groups we looked at British identity increases from generation to generation, while within the majority white population many maintain strong non-British identities, such as Scots or Welsh.”

Next week’s presentation is based on research by Dr Nandi from ISER and Professor Lucinda Platt from the Institute of Education, University of London.


For more information or to arrange an interview with one of the researchers, please contact Steve Roberts-Mee 01206 874823. You can also contact Christine Garrington 07546 117673.

Notes to Editors

  • Understanding Society is a world leading study of the socio-economic circumstances of people living in 40,000 UK households. The survey has been commissioned by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and is supported by a total of 11 Government departments and administrations. The research team is led by the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) at the University of Essex. NatCen Social Research delivers the study.
  • As well as using data from the main household survey, How diverse is the UK and How British is the UK by Dr Nandi and Professor Platt also makes use of a unique ethnicity boost sample from the survey which interviews around 1000 adults from each of the following ethnic groups: Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Caribbean and African
  • Dr Alita Nandi is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex.
  • Professor Lucinda Platt is based at the Institute of Education, University of London where she is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Millennium Cohort Study.
  • The ESRC Research Methods Festival 2012 takes place from July 2-5 at St Catherine’s College Oxford. It is organized by the ESRC National Centre for Research Methods. The event includes more than 70 research presentations, lectures and workshops and is being attended by some 800 delegates from around the world.

Photo credit: garryknight


Latest findings, new research

Publications search

Search all research by subject and author


Researchers discuss their findings and what they mean for society


Background and context, methods and data, aims and outputs


Conferences, seminars and workshops

Survey methodology

Specialist research, practice and study

Taking the long view

ISER's annual report


Key research themes and areas of interest