Black mothers most likely to say they receive racist treatment

16 February 2010

Black Caribbean and black African mothers are more likely than women from other ethnic groups to say that they have been victims of racism, a study has found.

Racist treatment from shop staff also appears to be a bigger problem for black Caribbean and black African mothers than it is for other minority ethnic groups. Mixed-race mothers are, however, even more likely than black mothers to say they have received verbal insults in the previous year. More than one in four mixed-race women who were surveyed said they had experienced this problem.

The findings have emerged from an analysis of questionnaire responses from around 2,000 non-white mothers taking part in the Millennium Cohort Study, which is tracking the development of children born in the UK at the beginning of the new century. Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi mothers were also included in the survey.

The aim of the research was to gauge the strength of mothers’ social networks and find out how secure they felt in their home neighbourhoods when their child was age 5.

The majority of mothers said that they had never encountered racism. However, almost one in three black African (32%) and black Caribbean (30%) mothers reported that they had been treated unfairly because of their race. More than a quarter of black mothers also felt that they had recently received racist treatment from shop staff.

Black African mothers were also the least likely to be friends with local parents. Just over half of white mothers had both friends and family nearby, compared to only a quarter of black African mothers and 36 per cent of black Caribbean mothers.

The researcher who carried out the analysis, Dr Alice Sullivan, of the Institute of Education, University of London, points out that black African mothers are among the most recent migrants to this country, and are most likely to have parents living outside the UK.

However, her study also shows that Bangladeshi mothers are even more likely than white mothers to have both friends and family in their local community — even though they were the least likely to have been born in the UK. Only 9 per cent of the Bangladeshi women had been born in this country and 90 per cent of them had partners who were not UK-born either.

Dr Sullivan believes that such statistics raise questions about whether ethnic residential clustering is an unequivocally ‘bad thing’. “The debate on ethnic residential segregation in Britain has focused on the supposed reluctance of certain groups to integrate,” she says. “However, this study highlights some of the reasons that minority ethnic mothers may have for clustering in particular areas. Avoiding racism, for example, may be seen as a ‘push’ factor, while social ties and trust within the neighbourhood can be a ‘pull’ factor.”

Dr Sullivan’s findings are included in a book on the Millennium Cohort Study’s first three surveys which is published today (February 17) by The Policy Press. Children of the 21st century (volume 2): the first five years is available from the publisher’s website

The Millennium Cohort Study is run by the Centre for Longitudinal Studies at the Institute of Education. The study was commissioned by the Economic and Social Research Council, whose funding has been supplemented by a consortium of Government departments.

Further information:
David Budge
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Notes for editors

1. The first survey of the Millennium Cohort Study took place between June 2001 and January 2003. It gathered information from the parents of 18,818 babies born in the four UK countries. The second survey took place at age 3 and the third at age 5. Its field of inquiry covers such diverse topics as parenting; childcare; school choice; child behaviour and cognitive development; child and parental health; parents’ employment and education; income and poverty; and housing, neighbourhood and residential mobility. It is the first of the nationwide cohort studies to over-sample places with high densities of ethnic minorities and large numbers of disadvantaged families.

2. The Institute of Education is a college of the University of London, specialising in teaching, research and consultancy in education and related areas of social science and professional practice. The 2008 Research Assessment Exercise judged almost two-thirds of the work submitted by the IOE as internationally significant, and 35 per cent as ‘world leading’.

3. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK’s largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. It supports independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. The ESRC’s planned total expenditure in 2009/10 is £204 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes.

The contract for data collection in MCS is awarded under competitive tender to specialist agencies. For three out of the four surveys undertaken to date the data collection was carried out by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), who in turn sub-contracted the interviewing in Northern Ireland to the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA). The agency responsible for the second round of data collection was Gfk-NOP, who sub-contracted in Northern Ireland to Millward Brown.

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