More ethnically diverse populations for UK local areas


In 40 years' time the UK will be a more diverse but more integrated society, according to research at the University of Leeds.

Ethnic minorities will make up a fifth of the population but they will be less concentrated in the big cities, the report says.

Professor Philip Rees, from the School of Geography, who has led the research, said: “At a regional level, the ethnic minorities will shift out of deprived inner city areas to the suburbs and surrounding towns.

“This echoes the way that white groups have migrated in the past with the growth of the middle classes. In particular the Black and Asian populations of affluent local authorities will increase significantly.”

The main aims of the research were to understand the impact that immigration from and emigration to other countries is having on the size and structure of the UK population at a local level and the demographic changes that local ethnic populations are likely to experience over the next 40 years.

The results suggest that the sustained growth of ethnic minority groups over the period 2001-2051 will be driven by demographic factors such as future fertility and mortality rates, immigration and emigration flows and migration between local authorities within the UK.

The key projections for 2051 are:

  • The UK population could reach almost 78 million (from 59 million in 2001)
  • The ethnic minority share of the population will increase from 8 per cent (2001) to 20 per cent
  • The White British, White Irish and Black Caribbean groups will experience the slowest growth
  • The Other White (originating in Europe, Australasia and the USA), Mixed groups and Other Ethnic groups (from outside South Asia and Africa) will experience the largest growth
  • Ethnic minorities will disperse to more affluent areas and be significantly less segregated from the rest of the population in 2051 than in 2001.

The report says that the chief factor driving the faster growth of the Other White group is immigration from Europe. Traditional immigrant groups from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are also predicted to grow as a result of immigration and because they have young age structures.

“One of the most surprising findings was the scale of increase in the so-called Other Ethnic groups representing people from lots of other countries outside of the main origin groups” said Professor Rees.

International migration remains an important factor in predicting population make up, but the researchers say that current government immigration policies are unlikely to radically change the ethnic composition of the UK population in 2051.

“The points system that selects skilled migrants applies only to a minority of migration flows and does not affect migration from other EU states, and entry by refugees and asylum seekers. In 2051 the UK will have a larger and more ethnically diverse population,” said Professor Rees.

In addition, a large part of the future growth of ethnic minority populations is built into their youthful age structure, irrespective of the future level of immigration from abroad.

The study, ‘What happens when international migrants settle? Ethnic group trends and projections for UK local areas under alternative scenarios,’ was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and carried out by Professor Philip Rees and Dr Paul Norman at the University of Leeds.

For more information

To request an interview with Professor Philip Rees, please contact Rachel Barson, press officer, University of Leeds; phone: +44 113 343 2060 or email   

Projected populations, publications and presentations from the project can be accessed via

The project used an innovative computer model to forecast the UK population’s ethnic makeup in 352 Local Authorities in England plus Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland from 2001 to 2051 under different demographic scenarios. The population was divided into the 16 ethnic groups used in the 2001 Census. The forecasts specified the assumptions for immigration, emigration, internal migration, fertility and mortality, classified by ethnic group and local authority.