Ethnic Inequalities in the U.K.

Most ethnic groups in Britain are poorer than the white majority.

There are several dimensions to inequality by ethnicity in the United Kingdom.

Pakistani and Bangladeshi households have among the lowest levels of wealth and income compared to White Households while Black African households have high wealth but lower income.

Despite their wealth and income, however, White British people have the second lowest life expectancy of all ethnic groups, and despite their relative poverty Bangladeshi women have the second highest life expectancy!

Household Wealth Inequalities by Ethnicity

There are significant differences in household wealth by ethnicity.

The median household wealth in the U.K. between April 2016 and April 2018 (the latest data available) was £286 600. The range between the most and least wealthy ethnic groups was £314 000 for the White British Group and £34 000 for the Black African Group.

This means that White British households are nine times wealthier than Black-British African households.

All ethnic minority groups have less household wealth compared to White households, except for Black Caribbean households who are wealthier:

If we rank ethnic minority groups in order of household wealth from richest to poorest we get the following:

  1. Black Caribbean
  2. White
  3. Chinese
  4. Indian
  5. Bangladeshi
  6. Black African
  7. Pakistani.

However these differences in household wealth are partly a reflection of two other factors which have a major influence on wealth

  1. The different age profiles of ethnic minority populations. Black Africans especially have a lower age profile than average, in other words they are younger overall, and age has a huge influence on household wealth. Those in the 55-64 age group are 10 times wealthier than those in the 25-34 age group.
  2. Home ownership. Houses tend to be the largest capital investment a family or individual has, and the value of houses is included in the measurement of wealth used by the ONS. Home ownership rates vary by ethnicity and Black Africans have relatively low rates of home ownership, which is in turn partly a reflection of the lower age profile.

Income Inequality by Ethnicity

Income inequality varies by ethnicity. The statistics below (2) are for the period 2017 to 2020 (the latest available at time of writing in January 2023).

Focusing on which ethnic groups are most likely to be in the bottom two quintiles for income, ranking the poorest first:

  • 76% of Pakistani and 75% of Bangladeshi households are in the bottom two quintiles.
  • 75% of Bangladeshi households
  • 62% of black households are in the bottom two quintiles
  • 49% of Chinese households are in the bottom two quintiles
  • 40% of Asian and 38% of households are in the bottom two quintiles.

So to summarise Pakistani and Bangladeshi households are almost twice as likely to be in poor households compared to the average (which is 40% which is the poorest two quintiles or 2/5 or 4/10!).

Black households are 1.5 times more likely and Chinese households are slightly more likely to be poor.

Indian and White British households are at 40%, which is in line with the national average.

The figures are similar for the chances of having a high income household by ethnicity.

Ethnic Differences in Life Expectancy

Life expectancy at birth for females varies by ethnicity from 83.1 years for those of mixed ethnicity to 88.9 years for those of Black African ethnicity.

The differences here don’t seem to correlate at all with inequalities in wealth and income.

For example the White ethnic group has the second lowest life expectancy despite having some of the highest wealth and income.

Also Bangladeshi and Pakistani females have differing life expediencies despite having very similar levels of household income.

The pattern is similar for males but with overall lower life expectancy in all ethnic groups.


This material is of general relevance to a whole range of sociology modules, from education to crime and deviance!

You might also like this post – another aspect of ethnic inequalities covered elsewhere: educational achievement by ethnicity.

To return to the homepage –


(1) Office for National Statistics (November 2020) Household wealth by ethnicity, Great Britain: April 2016 to March 2018.

(2) GOV.UK Income Distribution by Ethnicity.

(3) Office for National Statistics: Ethnic Differences in Life Expectancy.

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