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Data reveals worrying rates of financial hardship for people from ethnic minority backgrounds

A new dataset from the Centre on the Dynamics of Ethnicity shows disturbing ethnic inequalities in rates of financial hardship in the UK. In the three months leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 40% of people surveyed from the Arab, Any Other background, and Mixed White and Black African background all reported that they had financial difficulties. This compares with 23% of people from the White British group.

The COVID-19 pandemic made managing household finances harder for people from almost all ethnic groups, including White British people. But people from some ethnic groups recorded a particularly sharp rise in rates of financial difficulty, including people from the Chinese, Any other Black background, Black Caribbean, Roma and Gypsy/Traveller groups.

Professor James Nazroo, from The University of Manchester, said “People from ethnic minority backgrounds were already facing higher rates of financial difficulty, and the fallout from the pandemic compounded this situation. Our dataset is evidence of very real ethnic inequalities. This is the kind of data we need to build into our pandemic recovery strategies if we want a fairer society.”

During this period, over 45% of people from the Arab, Any Other Black background, Any Other Mixed background, Any Other background, and Roma groups reported being in financial difficulty.

Michaela Šťastná, from The University of St Andrews, said “Importantly, our data uncovers inequalities experienced by people from certain ethnic groups who are missing from, or invisible in, the Census or other national surveys, especially some of the smaller ethnic groups such as Roma, Gypsy/Traveller, Arab and ‘Other’ ethnic groups. People from Roma and Gypsy/Traveller backgrounds are one of the groups often missing from survey data. Yet this new dataset shows that they face the highest levels of socioeconomic deprivation: they are much more likely to have no educational qualifications, less likely to have better paid jobs and have some of the highest rates of financial hardship.”

Professor Nissa Finney, from the University of St Andrews, said “We are excited to be able to share our unique dataset. It is a one-of-a-kind survey which goes into more detail and more depth on the experiences of people from ethnic minority groups in Britain than any other survey. We encourage all researchers and policymakers to access it and use it to reduce ethnic inequalities.”

The new dataset is from Evidence for Equality National Survey (EVENS), the largest survey of ethnic and religious inequalities in Britain during the pandemic. EVENS documents patterns of ethnic inequality in health, housing, employment, income and education. The full dataset is freely available from the UK Data Service.

Gemma Hakins, Acting Director of Data Access, UK Data Service, said “We are delighted to provide free research access to CODE’s EVENS Survey through the UK Data Service. These new data are a first in providing detailed evidence on how ethnicity shapes the lives of people across the UK. We welcome the insights they give researchers and policy developers to help enable greater ethnic equality in the future.”

You can explore this valuable resource further by joining Professor Nissa Finney and Dr Nigel de Noronha on the 3 October, 10-11.30am for a free online workshop Introduction to the Evidence for Equality National Survey (EVENS).