Monday 6 May 2013

White flight: "600,000 have quit London in a decade". The true figure is far higher

The Daily Mail is rarely knowingly understated when it comes to a scare story, especially about immigration. However, sometimes ignorance of basic statistical concepts does the job for them. So it is for today's piece, "How rise of white flight is creating a segregated UK", which states: 
More than 600,000 white British Londoners have left the capital in a decade"
This is nonsense. The true figure for the number of white Londoners who've left is far higher - once again, the Mail confuses net with gross figures.  Even assuming that we are only talking about Londoners moving from the capital to other parts of the UK (that is, ignoring international emigration, much of which may be non-British and/or non-white), the ONS' best estimate is that about 240,000 people moved out of London in the single year ending June 2011 - over a decade, that adds up to well over 2 million.   

Of course, by Mail logic, that suggests that I'll be the last white Briton in London by the time I collect my pension.  But are white Britons really voting with their feet against multi-ethnic London?  The Telegraph thinks so:
"a continuing pattern of “white flight” from areas where indigenous Britons find themselves surrounded by new minority communities." 
However, what do the numbers actually say?  Two more statistics from the same ONS release

"The London region had the largest turnover of internal migrants in England and Wales with 201,600 estimated moves into the region and 242,000 estimated moves out of the region, and this represents around 5.5 per cent of its mid-2011 population estimate."
This doesn't suggest "white flight", since presumably a large majority of those 200,000 people who are moving from other parts of England and Wales to London are white . Rather it suggests a lot of churn; as is well known, there is significant in-migration to London among relatively young people in search of employment, followed in many cases by out-migration when they want to have children and/or a larger house.  There is nothing new about this and no reason to believe it has much if anything to do with race.   But do the very large gross figures conceal growing white flight? 

The ONS again: 
"In the year ending June 2011, an estimated 40,400 more people left the region than arrived, this represented a reduction of approximately 2,500 in net outflow for the London region when compared to the previous year. This change in the net level of internal migration was consistent with a general trend of a reduction in the net outflow of migrants for the London region over the last ten years."
In other words, the ONS thinks that over the last decade the number of people leaving London for the rest of England and Wales has been falling,  not rising. In fact, other ONS data shows that even back in 1991 more than 200,000 people a year, pretty much all of them white, were moving out of London (out of a considerably smaller total population).  There really doesn't seem to be anything in the aggregate data to support the view that there has been a substantial rise in white people (or people in general) moving out of London, let alone that they are "fleeing" from non-whites (or non-Brits).  

This doesn't mean "white flight" doesn't exist, or that we shouldn't worry about segregation at a local level  - the detailed local authority level data for a small number of boroughs is suggestive. But it's very difficult to believe that it's anything like the main driver of London demographics.   

[Note: I may update this later after looking at some of the more detailed data]


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