Of all the changes announced by the 2011 census, one of the most startling is the rapid change in the ethnic composition of London's population. This has caught experts by surprise and reflects an underestimate of the extent to which white British people have opted to leave an increasingly diverse London.

Between 2001 and 2011, the proportion of white British in London's population fell from 58 to 45 per cent. The share of ethnic minorities reached 40 per cent of the total, a 39 percent increase, while whites of non-British origin grew by a whopping 52 per cent. The share of minorities in London has increased by a percentage point a year since 1991.

This has caught many by surprise. ‘By 2031 39 per cent of London’s population is projected to be from a BAME [minority] group,’ a 2010 Greater London Authority planning report announced. Last year, a group of the UK's leading academic geographers took the GLA to task for overstating the pace of change and projected that in 2031, London would still be 64.5 per cent white. The train has arrived 20-30 years early: in 2011, London is already 59.9 per cent white. Analysts implied that London would not become 'majority minority' in most of our lifetimes, but the latest census figures suggest otherwise.

How did the demographers, many of whom I know and respect, get it so wrong? Don't blame demography, which is the most predictive of the social sciences, because the ethnic composition of today's 5 year-olds is mathematically linked to the population of 50 year-olds in 45 years’ time. Though political considerations may have affected the projections at the edges, this cannot be the explanation since projections for England were largely accurate. Minority fertility is not the issue: if anything minority birth rates have probably fallen faster than predicted.

Immigration underestimates may be a partial factor, but what is far more critical is that the experts misread white outmigration from London. One of those who got it right was geographer John Stillwell of Leeds University, who noticed there was large shift of whites from diverse wards in London to less diverse wards in the outer suburbs, and an even more dramatic white outlflow from relatively white wards of London to other parts of England and Wales. In Barking and Dagenham, to take an extreme example, a third of the white British population departed between 2001 and 2011. Since many lack the resources to move or are council tenants, this suggests that a majority of local white British who could leave may have done so.

Yet we should not jump to any hasty conclusions. In our Demos project, Diversity and the White Working Class, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, Gareth Harris and I put the concept of ‘white flight’ under a magnifying glass by asking why there has been a disproportionate shift of white British people out of diverse areas.

While white avoidance of ethnic minorities is the first thought that comes to mind, it's important to consider the alternative explanations. Most diverse wards are urban and poor. Whites may be leaving for better schools, cheaper homes, fresher air, or because they are more likely to be retirees, wealthier or better educated. Only a statistical approach which controls for these factors can tell us whether ethnic preferences are key.

The UK's excellent ONS Longitudinal Study and Understanding Society longitudinal survey ask people about their political and ideological leanings, English national identity and other questions that will help us to compare white British people who remain in diverse areas with those who leave. During 2013 we hope to provide a definitive answer as to whether conservative, Daily Mail-reading whites who identify as English are more likely to leave diverse neighbourhoods than liberal whites who identify as British. We also look at interconnections between white working-class mobility, opinion on immigration and far right voting.

American and British research shows that minorities are moving out of their areas of concentration to better neighbourhoods. However, white Americans tend to leave or avoid ‘majority minority’ neighbourhoods and seek out areas that are over 70 per cent white. Given the large increase in Hispanic and Asian populations in America, this is resulting in ever larger heavily-minority zones in America's most diverse metropolitan areas. Whether Britain will follow in America's footsteps is an open question: much will depend on the residential preferences of working-class British whites and whether they are able to realise them.

Chris

You also have to consider that most of those areas used to be well looked after and have become poor. This is a case of Babylonialism, which will lead to the inevitable destruction of the nation.

peejay

Britons won't be able to 'follow in America's footsteps' -- because we're rapidly running out of space. Something no one wants to discuss.

ANTHONY

I'm a white Londoner and have lived in London all my life but I can't wait to finally get out to the suburbs. For the moment I just tolerate the replaced white community that used to dominate the landscape here. In the past 10 years nearly all of my white neighbors have left for mainly coastal towns. The new residents who move in are always foreign. When pressed, one of my moving white neighbors told me that London was 'now way too unfamiliar' and that he wanted to bring his family up in a neighborhood that looked more like his family. Of course I hear the cry of 'racism' but this is also a case of the unspoken truth, this so called 'racism' is what is actually driving this exodus. If you asked white people publicly why they have moved out of London only the brave would tell you the truth. Other more polite people would suggest they moved for a quieter life by the coast or for better schools but these 'reasons' has always been in place yet white Londoners have never left London in the numbers they are leaving today. As the numbers of black and Asian increase so too does the numbers of white families leaving London increase. The relationship between the two movements of peoples is well understood. If black or Asian people are free to choose to live amongst their 'own' in the inner cities of London or Birmingham and if this 'cultural cosiness' is not consider racism then white people who want to cosy up to 'their' own people isn't racism either. Lets be honest it's called human nature. We all feel happier living in a tribe of people that we feel part of. The elephant in the room is the polarization of residential life based on colour, it's been going on for decades but has been increasing in consequence each and every year. If you look at where white Britons move home to it is never into black or Asian communities. East London is now only 10% white, that is a disaster. In the next 20 years i fear a almighty break out of civil unrest where different communities jossle for control and where white no go areas are common place. The 'funeral pyre' that Enoch Powell warned about but has been built nonetheless by well meaning people. Hopefully if this terrible moment arises I will have moved away from this mess, a mess that no one wants to talk about as it's very impolite to suggest that people of any colour prefer to live with people that look just like them. Scotland, Ireland and Wales do not have this same problem on the scale of England's. The tolerance or brow beatenness of the English has been what draws ever more foreigners to English cities. Africans and Asians now settle in English city communities that look and feel more African or Asian then English, hence the white exodus out of these places. White law makers introduce ever more race related legislation yet these same law makers choose to live in the rather cosy white towns of the suburbs or coast .

One closing thought, if English towns like Whitastable in Kent were predominately black or Asian today would those white families leaving London this year actually choose to move there? Perhaps lets not ask that question, lets not talk about human nature at all, let us all pretend this problem doesn't exist, until of course, we have to face the consequences.

Angry

There is no escape in the suburbs, trust me I live there!

I'm also looking to " escape" but this is just a tiny country NOT like America.

The question is why are they here? Obvious it's better, not masses leaving there shores for Somalia, Nigeria etc are there?

The problem is they bring us down ( ( dilute us ) rather than them rising to our standards!

I'm angry!!

Had enough

Honestly us british have had enough now, yes, we've always been tolerant and welcoming to other races and cultures BUT there's a limit to everything. Sometimes I walk around some parts of london and feel like im in a totally different country!! It just doesn't feel like the old days, we're being outcasted in our own cities and country, this is just ridiculous.

Richsrd Temple

Same thing i could go to Cape Town and Johannesburg and its packed with European immigrants especially English living like kings while the indigenous population suffer

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