Immigration

The Parisian arriving in London by train alights at a resplendent station. St Pancras, and the adjacent King’s Cross, make Gare du Nord look like a provincial hub. The surrounding area, once a ramshackle collection of properties, is gleaming with new hotels, offices and prime accommodation. It is a clear sign of how London’s economic geography has changed in the 21st century. The inner city has developed rapidly. Poverty is moving to the outskirts of the capital. As its core grows faster than its periphery, London is becoming more like Paris. Read more

Are we applying tougher criteria for what it means to be British? Data released on Tuesday by the British Social Attitudes Survey and NatCen suggest this is the case. It points to an increase in the number of people saying that others must speak English to be considered truly British. An article on the BSAS in the Times says that attitudes show a “hardening towards multiculturalism”. The BBC’s interpretation is similar. But before we decry the rise of little Englandism, let’s look closely at the data. This is particularly important given the ongoing, heated debate on “Britishness”.  Read more

Earlier this month, I was chatting about immigration with a supporter of the United Kingdom Independence party. He wanted less of it. I was much more sanguine. In response, he said, in a nicer way than it seems in writing: “You just don’t get it, do you?”. He explained why he felt the way he did – his perception that immigrants were responsible for rising crime in his home city of Lincoln and his worry that immigrants would hinder him from getting a job – and suggested that it was only natural that I would feel differently, since I came from London and had a nice job.

I mention this conversation in light of data released on Tuesday by the annual British Social Attitudes Survey, conducted by NatCen. In a chapter on immigration, Robert Ford and Anthony Heath disaggregate public opinion. The authors show the extent to which there is a stark divide between the average views of those with degrees, in professional jobs and/or live in London, and the rest of the country. “Elite” opinion is markedly different. This has important political implications.


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What do the data below tell us about Britain?

The table is taken from A Portrait of Modern Britain, a report published on Tuesday by Policy Exchange, a think tank. It presents the answers of respondents from the six biggest ethnic groups in the UK to the question how would they describe their national identity given the following options: English, Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish, British and Other (respondents were asked to identify what they meant by Other.)

The data, taken from the 2011 census, suggest that only about 14 per cent of whites report a “British only” identity. Respondents were allowed to list more than one identity but the figure only rises to a quarter when a dual British identity is included. Sixty-four per cent, however, say that they have an English-only identity. Read more

Statistics released on Wednesday by the Higher Education Funding Council for England show that the number of overseas students studying at English universities has declined for the first time in 30 years. The data should raise concerns about the openness of the UK to the rest of the world. It is hard to win a “global race” if fewer people want to start on your track.

The chart below shows the number of overseas full-time undergraduate students entering an English university each year since 2005-6. Students from the rest of the EU are represented by the red bars and non-EU (“international”) students by the blue bars. The figures between the bars show annual percentage growth. Read more

On Thursday, the government published its needlessly controversial report that reviews the impact of migration on the UK labour market.

In a post yesterday, I argued that the alleged worry about publishing the new document derives from how Home Secretary Theresa May used a January 2012 report from the independent Migration Advisory Committee. The MAC report was replete with caveats and qualifications, a necessary feature of empirical analysis about migration.

Thursday’s report supports the MAC findings – not the use of the findings but the findings themselves. Read more

Newsnight brings more support for this telling chart about immigration:

Britons want immigration reduced, though they are not as universally or as rabidly concerned about it as conservative tabloid newspapers would have us believe. At the same time, Britons do not trust the government to meet the Tories’ target for reducing net migration. Little wonder. The whole debate is marred by exaggerations and broken commitments that engender more cynicism. This makes politicians keener to appear tough … and to jump on anything that smells like supporting evidence.

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This is what can happen when a politician sets a target without thinking about whether it has the power to meet it, never mind whether it is a good idea:

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What do Britons really think about immigration? The subject is rarely away from the news, including the truth-promising BBC. But I find it hard to untangle the fabric of hysteria.

In recent report, Ipsos-Mori, a polling firm, assembles a lot of data about attitudes to immigration. It provides a clear yet nuanced account of public opinion. Below, I have selected the 20 charts I found most telling about Britain and immigration. Read more

One of the assumptions politicians seem to make about migration is that promises to be tough and that they Share Your Concern will mollify public opinion. However, if anything, they can provoke public antipathy, according to pollsters. This is surely even more the case when policies are not seen to be working.

I worry about a vicious circle: public say they’re angry at immigration –> politicians say they’re doing something –> public gets worked up –> policy doesn’t or cannot work –> public gets even more angry and thinks it is being lied to. (Or something like that. There is probably a point when policy wonks point out the aggregate gains to migration.) Read more