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Change and continuity among minority communities in Britain


We compare the Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities in Britain with other ethnic minorities to ask the questions ‘are Muslims different?’ and ‘is their behaviour changing over time?’. We look at the gender gap in education, age at marriage, marriage from the source country and female employment. In all these dimensions we find that Muslim communities are different but also that there is a convergence in behaviour. This is because those born in Britain generally differ markedly in behaviours from those born in the country of origin, but also because there is change within both the UK- and foreign-born communities.

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  1. The studies of the identity is also relevant here—see Zimmermann et al. (2007), Constant et al. (2006) and Manning and Roy (2010) for evidence about the determinants of identity among immigrants and ethnic minorities. Constant and Zimmermann (2008) also provide evidence on the link between identity and outcomes.

  2. To give but one example, the Daily Telegraph of January 20, 2006 contained an article with the statement “the findings depict a Muslim community becoming more radical and feeling more alienated from mainstream society”. Lurid tales of forced marriage, honour killings and hate-filled religious literature within these communities spilling out into rioting (in 1989, 2001 and 2005) and recent terrorist plots lead to a less than flattering image of British Muslim communities amongst many non-Muslims. Though these events are real enough, they are also rare.

  3. There is also an enormous literature which we do not seek to summarise here on other countries—see Adsera and Chiswick (2007) for an interesting comparison of European countries.

  4. There are other interesting dimensions along which Muslims might be different that we do not study. For example, in the course of this research we also used the British Social Attitudes Survey to investigate attitudes to women’s rights and homosexuality. We did find Muslims are markedly more hostile to homosexuality though all religious people are more hostile than those without a religion. However, small sample sizes meant we could not say anything about changes over time.

  5. About 12% of the Indians in the UK are Muslim but, because a religion question is only asked in the Labour Force Survey since 2002, we cannot conduct our analysis restricting the Indian sample to non-Muslims. What analysis we have done, does suggest an effect of religion within the Indian community with Muslims and Sikhs being more ‘traditional’ in their practices. But as the Muslims are only a small minority of Indians, it must be the behaviour of non-Muslims that accounts of most of what we see in the Indian community.

  6. This growth will almost certainly continue into the future as many of the ethnic minorities have a much younger age structure—according to the 2001 Census just under 12% of Pakistanis and over 12% of Bangladeshis were aged under four in 2001 compared to under 6% of the white population.

  7. This is the case for adults only whereas if one considers also children then Bangladeshis have the third highest proportion of UK-born.

  8. For the UK-born white population the gender gap in age left full-time education is about 0.15 years for those born prior to 1960 and zero thereafter.

  9. However, it is possible for someone to be UK-born, then move to Pakistan/Bangladesh, leave education early and later return to the UK.

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  11. Changes among the foreign-born might be the result of the changes in the source countries discussed above but another factor that might be important is the changing selection of immigrants into the UK.

  12. Some of these practises have been the subject of UK legislation to restrict the entry of spouses below the age of 18 and to impose a requirement that the prospective spouses have previously met.

  13. We have experimented with using different age groups and with including men but with very similar results. Some other tables are available from the authors on request.

  14. We also estimated similar models for men for whom the results are similar though less striking as they tend to marry later. In the interest of brevity we do not report those estimates here.

  15. It is worth noting that very early marriage remains extremely common in many parts of rural Bangladesh (see Field and Ambrus 2008) where it is seen as something of a ‘problem’ that policy is trying to address.

  16. There is a tricky causality issue here—it may be that later marriage leads to more education rather than more education to later marriage. We do not have a suitable instrument to deal adequately with disentangling this here. But there is a widespread belief that education in general (and female education in particular) is an important way to change behaviour.

  17. The propensity for a UK-born minority to have a foreign-born spouse is likely to be related to the fraction of the minority born in the UK and the extent to which the minority lives in an enclave. Both factors might account for why Black Caribbeans are less likely to have a foreign-born spouse.

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  19. It is hard to know from this data whether the non-Muslims have converted or were brought up that way (there being small religious minorities in both countries).

  20. For example, it might also be interesting to look at educational attainment among children (see Modood 2005) or segregation (see Briggs et al. 2005; Burgess et al. 2006a, 2006bb).


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We would like to thank the editor and three referees for their comments on an earlier version of this paper.

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Correspondence to Alan Manning.

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Responsible editor: Klaus F. Zimmermann

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Georgiadis, A., Manning, A. Change and continuity among minority communities in Britain. J Popul Econ 24, 541–568 (2011).

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  • Immigration
  • Assimilation

JEL Classification

  • J15
  • F22