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]



pvandck's picture

It is self evident to anyone with a functioning grey cell that not all people who live in London are "Londoners". So the Mail would be presenting speculation as fact - which would be just as novelty for them as presenting a fabricated story, of course. Just saying.

Dr. Sunil's picture

Greater London:
2001 Census White British 4,287,861 (59.79%)
2011 Census White British 3,669,284 (44.89%)

Luke's picture

Umm. Don't non- white British count as British? How many generations does it take? (FWIW I am very white but not entirely British, depending on the definition of British.)

Tony Quintus's picture

And if they had half an ounce of spine they'd move back and stop the rot, but they don't, so they wont.

tuhmunga's picture

Here's a funny thing. When I worked down in the south east in the early 1970's when I mentioned that I was from Worcestershire, I was met with blank looks, incredulity, and imitation Archers accents. Why ever would anybody want to live out on the sticks? Boring. Why would we want to go and live there, they said. We're Londoners, this is our city, my family have lived here for generations. Anything you could ever want is in London. Why would anyone want to leave London? It would be turning your back on your roots.
Now, you can't walk down a street in Worcester without hearing an estuary accent. There's a new suburb called St Peter's where I have been twice and asked for directions, and been answered in the plangent diphthongs and triphthongs of ex-Londoners, I went to Norfolk for the first time a coupld of years back. Right in the middle of nowhere we went into a pub. The publican turned out to be a cockney. In the rest of Norfolk and Suffolk ex-Londoners are abundant. There weren't Londoners when I lived in Lincolnshire in the early 1980's - now it's full of them. I went on holiday to Devon. Londoners. They're everwhere. For some reason, all the old talk about it being "my city"and "my family have lived here for generations" has gone. Question 1: Why have Londoners developed this love for the countryside and the provinces? Question 2: Why do brown and black people, when they go up in the world, just buy a bigger house in the city instead of buying themselves a little place in the country or in a nice little market town? Question 3: Why do Londoners, when they discover that they can get far more for their money in terms of property, prefer to move to dull places like the countryside and predominantly white provincial cities or market towns, rather than to Birmingham, Bradford, Manchester, Leeds where they can have a much bigger house but also carry on enjoying the vibrancy and life-enhancing qualities of multicultural environments?

FPPeterson's picture

Whether they do or they don't is irrelvant for present purposes. The census, the ONS and Mr. Portes all appear to agree that 'White British' is a legitimate term to characterise an ethnic grouping, and as such their demographic profile is as much interest as any other officially-approved grouping.

As for your particular situation, for statistical purposes, if you choose to self-identify as White British' then you will be counted as such.

FPPeterson's picture

The companion statistic that appears to have escaped the attention of the kommentariat:

England and Wales:

2001 Census White British 45,721, 236 (87.4%)
2011 Census White British 45,134, 686 (80.5%)

That's another 600,000 gone missing. In the meantime though the non-(White British) population has increased by 3.7 million so all must be well.

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