Home | Research Themes | Ethnicity


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Fifty years after the Race Relations Act 1965, people from ethnic minority backgrounds still face barriers in access to education, justice and the labour market, resulting in social/economic exclusion and tensions within and between communities. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (2016), for example, found significant ethnic inequalities in the UK across 10 different domains of economic, social and personal well-being. Much of the detailed research on ethnic inequalities, however, has focussed on England and Wales and so there are significant gaps in the literature with respect to this issue in Scotland.

Our aims in this research strand are to understand the implications of changing patterns of of poverty for ethnic minorities and to develop micro-level longitudinal evidence on the long-term relationship between changes in ethnic mix and the impacts on life outcomes. We are particularly interested in how “white” migrants from European accession countries affect, and are affected by, these issues, and whether ethnic minorities experience greater multi-dimensional inequality in Scotland compared with the rest of the UK. More specifically, we also seek to investigate whether changes in the ethnic/cultural mix of pupils in schools can affect education outcomes for pupils from different backgrounds, and whether there different employment trajectories and different neighbourhood effects for different ethnic groups.

Below are some of the papers related to this area of research.

Research Papers

From childhood system intervention to adult criminal conviction: Investigating sex and Indigenous status inequalities in Queensland administrative data

Matthews, McVie and collaborators at Queensland University, Australia 

It is well known that youth justice intervention is associated with a criminal conviction in adulthood.  What is less well known is whether “cross-over” children, who have contact with both child welfare and youth justice systems, experience relatively worse outcomes and, if so, whether these outcomes are exacerbated by important demographic factors, such as sex and Indigenous status.  Criminal careers scholars have examined the existence and patterning of adult convictions for different groups, but attempts to understand inequality of outcome have been constrained by limitations of standard statistical analysis.  Using administrative data from the Queensland Cross-sector Research Collaboration, we adopt a novel regression model specification more commonly used in epidemiology to explore the cumulative effects of childhood system contact on adult conviction trajectories, and how these associations vary by sex and Indigenous status.

Tipping vs Churning: To what extent are tipping-point effects offset or explained by neighbourhood churn?

Galster and others have tested for tipping points in various aspects of neighbourhood effects -  i.e. it is only when poverty or ethnic mix reach a certain threshold that impacts on life outcomes, neighbourhood trajectory or white flight become apparent. There is, however, an important mitigating factor in such thresholds and that is neighbourhood instability. In neighbourhoods with a high degree of churn – perhaps because of their close proximity to employment or educational opportunities that are temporary in nature – the effect of composition in terms of ethnicity may be less important as it is lost amid the noise of residential turnover. Note that endogenous (intra-neighborhood) turnover must be distinguished somehow from exogenously induced turnover. If an increase in ethnic mix is combined with an increase in churn, the effects may be exacerbated, particularly for indigenous residents who place a high value on neighbourhood stability. And neighbourhood stability may itself be important as it reflects (and makes it more possible) long term friendships and social connections at the neighbourhood level.

Is there a diversity premium in Scottish schools? How have changing patterns of poverty and ethnic mix affected educational trajectories by ethnic group?

We are interested in whether changes in the ethnic/ cultural mix of pupils in schools can affect education outcomes for pupils from different backgrounds. Previous research (Burgess, 2014) has shown that white children from deprived households are likely to perform better if they are in schools with children of mixed ethnic backgrounds rather than in an all-white school. We seek to establish whether such an effect holds true in Scotland, to understand whether there are threshold effects and whether there is an optimal level of social and ethnic mix for educational outcomes. More generally, we are interested in establishing the degree and nature of ethnic inequality in educational outcomes.
Fragmentation of traditional working class communities through decentralisation and changing spatial ordering of poverty combined with influx of new ethnicities opens up a range of questions about the impacts on different socio-ethnic groups.

What are the effects of changing neighbourhood poverty on labour market outcomes?

Since the turn of the century, there has been a rise in Scottish nationalist sentiment but unusually this has not been associated with a rise in anti-immigration parties such as UKIP. Indeed, one of the themes of the Scottish Independence debate was how Scotland has a fundamentally more open and tolerant approach to immigration than England. Scotland did not experience the rise of anti-immigration attitudes seen south of the Border, particularly in the lead up to and the aftermath of the Brexit referendum. This raises an interesting question about whether migrants and ethnic minorities more generally in Scotland benefit in substantive ways from the greater ambient tolerance north of the border.

Have ethnic minorities decentralised in Scottish cities, and what is the impact on access to employment, schooling and health services?

We have seen significant changes to the centralisation and spatial ordering of poverty in Scottish cities, but we know little about how these effects or their consequences differ for ethnic minorities.
In this research paper we are interested in addressing two key questions:

(1) has there been significant changes to the spatial distribution of different ethnic minorities (particularly in terms of decentralisation and spatial ordering)?

(2) what have been the impacts in terms of their access to employment, education and health services (GP surgeries), and their exposure to pollution, and crime?

We plan to investigate this using similar methodology to that used by Zhang & Pryce (2018) and to focus on inter-ethnic differences.

This research is in development. If you have any questions about this work, please contact Professor Gwilym Pryce.

Our other areas of research

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