Neighbourhoods and the creation, stability and success of mixed ethnic unions

Paul Boyle, Gereltuya Altankhuyag, Peteke Feijten, Zhiqiang Feng, Gillian Raab and Maarten van Ham, University of St Andrews and Lin Hattersley, General Register Office for Scotland

[Project number 30092]

The primary purpose of the study is to answer the following questions:

1. How many mixed-ethnic couples were captured in the 1991 and 2001 Censuses? Has the number of mixed-ethnic couples grown? Are mixed-ethnic couples increasingly likely to live in mixed-ethnic neighbourhoods?
2. Does living in a mixed-ethnic neighbourhood make it more common for people to end up in mixed-ethnic couples?
3. Are people in mixed-ethnic couples more likely to move into mixed-ethnic neighbourhoods?
4. Are mixed-ethnic couples less likely to dissolve if they live in mixed-ethnic neighbourhoods?

Previous studies have used cross-sectional census data to investigate mixed-ethnic unions in the UK. No study to date has examined whether living in mixed-ethnic neighbourhoods makes it more likely for people to end up in mixed-ethnic unions, or whether those in mixed-ethnic unions are more likely to move into mixed-ethnic neighbourhoods. Use of the ONS LS will allow us to explore the geography of mixed-ethnic unions in England and Wales.

The study of mixed-ethnic couples at the neighbourhood scale is not new, although most of this research has been conducted in the US. This topic builds on a long history of research on residential segregation, but extends this work to explore how mixed-ethnic couples contribute to changing ethnic geographies. For example, Holloway et al.(2005) in the US examined the factors which increased the likelihood of mixed-race households living in predominantly white neighbourhoods They found that mixed-race households were more likely to live in diverse ethnic neighbourhood settings than single ethnicity households. Some research has also examined mixed-ethnic unions in the UK mainly using cross-sectional data from the 1991 Census 1% SAR or from the UK Labour Force Surveys (e.g. Ballard 1997; Berrington 1996; Burgess, Wilson, and Lupton 2004; Coleman 2004; Data Management and Analysis Group Update 2005; Holdsworth and Dale 1997; Johnston, Poulsen, and Forrest 2006). Comparing inter-ethnic unions in England and the US, Model and Fisher (2002) indicate that there is a more hospitable environment for mixed-race partnering in Britain and greater levels of racial residential segregation in the US.

None of these previous studies have used longitudinal data to explore changing geographies of mixed-ethnic couples. In particular, previous cross-sectional studies could not demonstrate whether the high prevalence of mixed-ethnic couples in mixed-ethnic neighbourhoods was because people living in more diverse neighbourhoods were more likely to partner someone from a different ethnic group, or because mixed-ethnic couples are more likely to move into these areas. To explore this question, longitudinal data are required and this project aims to fill this gap by analysing the neighbourhood choice of mixed-ethnic couples using ONS LS data.

Ballard, R. 1997. Negotiating race and ethnicity: exploring the implications of the 1991 Census. Patterns of prejudice 30: 3 - 33.

Berrington, A. 1996. Marriage patterns and inter-ethnic unions. pp. 178 - 212. in David Coleman and John Salt, Ethnicity in the 1991 Census: demographic characteristics of the ethnic minority populations. HMSO.

Burgess, S, D Wilson, and R Lupton. "Parallel lives? Ethnic segregation in the playground and the neighbourhood"

Coleman, D. 2004. Partner choice and the growth of rthnic minority populations. Bevolking en Gezin 33: 7 - 34.

Data Management and Analysis Group Update. 2005. "Inter-ethnic unions," DMAG.

Holdsworth, C and A Dale. 1997. Issues in the analysis of ethnicity in the 1991 British census. Ethnic and racial studies 20: 160 - 180.

Holloway, S. R, M Ellis, R Wright, and M Hudson. 2005. Partnering 'Out' and fitting in: Residential segregation and the neighbourhood contexts of mixed-race households. Population, Space and Place 11: 299 - 324.

Johnston, R, M Poulsen, and J Forrest. 2006. Ethnic residential segregation and assimilation in British towns and cities: A comparison of those claiming single and dual ethnic identities. Migration letters 3: 11 - 30.

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