A recent study has found that British towns with the most immigrants and highest levels of diversity tend to do far better economically than areas with little.
An analysis of local authorities in England and Wales shows a strong link ‘between rising prosperity and rising diversity’, with diverse areas doing better, almost regardless of which metric you use.
The study, which was commissioned by anti-racism charity Hope Not Hate is a challenge to negative perceptions of immigration, and concludes that ‘growing diversity is an inevitable part of increasing prosperity and potentially, a contributor to it’.
The study also makes recommendations about how the government and local councils can manage demographic change alongside economic growth.
The study looked at indicators in 285 council areas outside of big cities, including economic growth, house prices, reductions in deprivation, employment and wages between 2011 and 2019.
It then went on to compare these factors to metrics like the proportions of the population born outside the UK, the proportion whose parents were born outside the UK, the extent to which the population is transient, and the local level of non-white British ethnic heritage.
The areas looked at excluded London boroughs and areas in other larger UK cities, by contrast the selection covered 49 of the 53 so-called ‘Red Wall’ seats won by the Conservatives in the 2019 election. The results were striking: the 50 places with the highest rises in GDP through the 2010’s saw their non-UK born communities grow at more than twice the pace of the 50 authorities with the lowest GDP rises.
Similar results were found on other metrics: the 50 towns with the highest increase in property values saw the number of births to non-UK born mothers increase at three times the pace of the 50 council areas with the smallest property price increases.
Areas where deprivation eased had twice as rapid an increase in non-UK born populations than areas where deprivation intensified. And in communities with an above average level of population transience, the median salary rose by £3,379 during the period studied, faster than £3,307 in those with below average transience.
On jobs the study found the 50 local authorities with the greatest increase in employment during the 2010s saw an average of 2.2 % increase in their non-British populations, compared to the 50 with the smallest rises that saw just 0.8%.
The report recommends that the government should acknowledge the relationship between growth and diversity and that the Home Office should update its immigration rules to ‘support the process by which communities get more diverse’.
The charity also calls for targeted funding for areas to ‘ensure that economic growth is accompanied by investment in infrastructure’ to accommodate population rises.
“Failure to do so can easily swell into community tensions” the report warns, citing housing, GP access, community facilities, and school funding as important areas of focus.
The report also calls on politicians to use inclusive language and to stop perpetuating fallacies about immigration, which might get in the way of communities living together. It also recommends an end to the government’s “hostile environment” policies which make life difficult for new arrivals.
Research reveals that the places within the field of study which saw the greatest economic advances during the 2010s were also, on average, those which saw the biggest increases in population diversity.
The extent to which this pattern sustains itself throughout the research is striking. There are positive correlations between rising prosperity and rising diversity across the board, almost regardless of which metric you use.
The report’s author, Chris Clarke said: “This research suggest that migration and ethnic diversity are inextricable linked to economic growth in our towns and regions, just as much as in big cities”.
“Diverse communities are an inherent and inevitable part of ‘levelling up’ and must be understood as a positive if it is to be a successful policy”.
“A commitment to building solidarity and cohesion must run through the ‘levelling up’ agenda like a stick of rock – with the rhetoric and mindset of ‘hostile environment’ being firmly consigned to the past”.