UCL News


Is Britain segregated?

12 July 2006

Do people live in ghettos defined by their race or religion - and is this something to fear? Long before last year's bomb attacks in London a debate had been growing over whether or not citizens of multi-racial, multi-faith Britain were living "parallel lives".

Are there any ways of projecting forward what happens to such communities?

Dr Laura Vaughan [UCL Bartlett School] is an architect by training who uses scientific methods to calculate how cities become more or less segregated. She says that Britain needs to look at its history.

"I came across this book from 1900 called 'The Jew in London'," she says.

"What is fascinating about the maps is that it shows the so-called 'Jewish ghetto' of 100 years ago. But Jewish people just don't live [in numbers] in those areas anymore."

Dr Vaughan has used census records to chart the long, slow process of geographic integration of the Jewish community, as it moved away from its initial, tight-knit, immigrant base.

"One can be clustered, as the Jewish communities were, but it does not necessarily mean that you are segregated from society."

A great deal of the debate has focused on comparisons between the UK and USA - with disputed research last year suggesting that segregation in the UK was getting worse. …

The recognised method of monitoring segregation in British cities shows the situation has either improved or stayed the same over the past 15 years.

"My general theory is that immigrant communities develop naturally in a location that enables slow integration over time," says Dr Vaughan.

"When we look at the Bangladeshis in London's East End, people say they have been there since the 1970s. Well it takes time and we forget that. It's possible that we will see Muslims following the same trajectory as the Jewish communities."

Dominic Casciani, BBC News Online