Only one in 10 Britons has best friend of different race

Survey reveals extent of social segregation in UK – along both ethnic and class boundaries

Just one in 10 Britons has a best friend from a different ethnic background, according to research which reveals that racial segregation is still a major issue in the UK.

The polling for The Challenge Network, which aims to encourage integration through youth and community groups, found that Britons are in fact 8 per cent more likely to have no best friend at all than one of a different ethnicity.

Craig Morley, the organisation’s chief executive and co-founder , said: “As UK communities become increasingly diverse, there is a very real danger they actually become more segregated. We need policies that actively promote integration, rather than foster segregation and ultimately lead to greater social isolation.

“We rightly celebrate the rich mix of people and culture in this country, but when you dig a little deeper you find that vast numbers are living parallel lives and interacting only with people very similar to themselves.”

The research also showed how people are still separated by education – and by extension, class – as 99 per cent of UK adults that went to state school have a friendship group who all went to state school as well.

Sarah Mulley, associate director for migration at the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), said: “There is clearly a concern that people don’t mix, either across ethnic lines or class lines, as you might expect, if you think how mixed, particularly, our cities are.

“The question is what do you do about it, if anything? Government policy has been much too focused on citizen tests and what it means to be British – and not enough on the practical and everyday. There are agonised discussions about what the questions in the citizen test should be, but [discussions aren’t being had] about the way in which communities and relationships are built.”

The polling of more than 2,000 adults also found that two thirds of Britons believe that programmes which bring young people from different backgrounds together, outside of the schools environment, are important.

The figures about friendship across races were the same in adulthood and childhood. Just 10 per cent of British adults had a best friend from a different ethnic background when they were at school, the same proportion as in adulthood.

But Sunder Katwala, director of the British identity and integration think tank, British Future, was sceptical about whether these figures showed segregation was something of concern in Britain. He said: “We know for a fact that there’s increasing ethnic contact in Britain. The best evidence of that is the doubling in the number of people of mixed ethnicity.”

He added: “In a country that’s 86 per cent white and 80 per cent white British, the important question is about broader friendship groups.”

Ben Gidley, senior researcher at Oxford University’s Centre on Migration, Policy and Society, said: “I think the evidence points to the trend of every ethnic group moving away from segregation and towards mixing. That’s true for almost every ethnic group. The big exception to that is among white British people, who are less likely to mix than they were a decade ago.

Dr Gidley added: “The school issue is interesting, because the ethnographic research I’ve done in London suggests the barriers along class lines are growing as race barriers are decreasing.”

Case study: ‘When I went to college, I tried to be diverse’

 

Frank Forrester, 17, from Croydon, south London, did not have many non-white friends when he was growing up. Although he went to a diverse school, he said people usually hung around in “single-race groups”. It was only in college that he formed more friendships with people from different ethnic backgrounds. He said it had a “massively positive” effect on his life.

“When you’re younger you try and find people who are similar to you; it’s easier and less stressful. But when I went to college, I tried to be more diverse. Now a lot of my friends are Asian, or from Middle Eastern backgrounds. You have more interesting conversations and you feel more accepted.”

Sarah Morrison

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Middleweight

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's fastest growing full s...

Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

Recruitment Genius: Commercial Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Estimating, preparation of tech...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will work as part of a smal...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada