English towns become more diverse

More people from different ethnic backgrounds are living close to each other than before

The number of neighbourhoods with “very high levels of diversity” rose from 342, or 1 per cent, in 2001 to 2,201, or 6 per cent, in 2021. Getty Images
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Rising diversity in England and Wales is creating more “rainbow” towns, as an increasing number of people live alongside others of different ethnic backgrounds.

Using the latest 2021 census data, a team of international population geographers found neighbourhood diversity more than doubled in the two decades between 2001 and 2021.

Researchers said that means more people from different ethnic backgrounds are living close to each other than before.

Gemma Catney, a population geographer at Queen’s University Belfast and a co-author of the study, said the data suggests “a level of tolerance”.

“What we're seeing are increasing levels of people living together or next door to each other, and that indicates a level of tolerance — something that's happened really naturally over time without major government interventions on integration,” Dr Catney told the BBC.

Eight out of 10 of England and Wales’s most diverse districts are in the English capital.

Newham in East London was the most diverse location overall. But locations high in diversity outside London include Slough in Berkshire, Luton, Birmingham and Leicester.

“By far the greatest number of neighbourhoods with high levels of ethnic diversity can be found in large cities, particularly in London, but also across the country, from Birmingham to Bristol, Manchester to Cardiff, and Nottingham to Southampton,” researchers said.

“The maps also tell a story of change outside urban spaces. Between 2001 and 2021 there was a clear diffusion of ethnic diversity beyond city boundaries. This expansion of diversity occurs across many parts of England where many formerly non-diverse neighbourhoods are now home to people from several ethnic groups.”

The number of neighbourhoods with “very high levels of diversity” rose from 342, or 1 per cent, in 2001 to 2,201, or 6 per cent, in 2021.

That is in part due to 1.1 million fall in the white British population and 8.7 million rise in all other ethnicities over the past two decades.

“But it is not solely a function of white British decline,” Dr Catney told The Guardian.

Birmingham's Bull Ring market. Birmingham is one of the UK's most ethnically diverse towns. Getty

“We do see growing diversity and spread. There is a broader rainbow of different ethnic groups represented across districts than ever before.”

In November, it was revealed that data collected by the census showed the proportion of people describing themselves as Christian in England and Wales has fallen below 50 per cent for the first time.

The Office for National Statistics said 46.2 per cent of the population described themselves as Christian, down from 59.3 per cent a decade earlier, a decline of 5.5 million people.

Those saying they had no religion jumped from about a quarter in 2011 (25.2 per cent) to more than a third in 2021 (37.2 per cent), a rise of 22.2 million people. This was the second most common response after Christian.

There was a 44 per cent rise in the proportion of people describing themselves as Muslim (up from 4.9 per cent to 6.5 per cent), while the proportion of Hindus rose to 1.7 per cent from 1.5 per cent.

In other insights, the census showed fewer people in England and Wales now own their home than in 2021, in a national shift towards renting.

Overall, the majority of people still owned the home they lived in, at 62.5 per cent, or 15.5 million households, the 2021 census figures for England and Wales showed.

But the number was down from 64.3 per cent — 15 million households — in 2011.

Updated: January 18, 2023, 6:49 AM
EDITOR'S PICKS