BME statistics on poverty and housing and employment

BME statistics on poverty and housing and employment

These statistics have been collated from a variety of different sources, which have differing ways of categorising and describing ‘race’ and ethnicity. (For example, some sources differentiate between particular black ‘groups’ whilst others do not. Some sources may just use the term Asian, others may differentiate between different Asian groups or different religious groups.) Where we have used other organisations’ statistics, we have followed the categorisation/names used by them – which means that there may be inconsistencies in terminology within and between pages.

While all those researching ‘race’ and discrimination issues will want to turn to the data, the statistics that we provide below, which are largely based on ethnicity, tend to generalise the BME experience without examining the interconnected nature of categories such as race, class and gender. The IRR’s statistics pages are aimed at directing our users to that data which indicates discrimination based in enduring institutionally racist (class-based and sexist) systems which reproduce inequality and disadvantage. To find complete breakdowns of data by all ethnic categories you can further consult the sources that we cite below.

Poverty – overview

Across the UK, more people from Black, Asian, and other minority ethnic backgrounds are likely to be in poverty (i.e., have an income less than 60% of the average household income) than white British people. According to a study on Health Equity in England, in 2018, 50% of all Bangladeshis and 46% of all Pakistanis were in the most deprived fifth of the population after meeting housing costs, compared with 20% of all white British people. In 2018/19, the Social Metric Commission found that 46% of black African and Caribbean people and 32% of those with a mixed ethnic heritage were in poverty compared with 19% of white British people. Within disabled groups, 40% of disabled ethnic minority adults compared with 23% of white British disabled adults lived in poverty.[1]

Free school meals

An important measure of deprivation and child poverty is eligibility for free school meals. In 2019, a Freedom of Information request to the Department of Education revealed that while 15% of white British children were eligible for free school meals, a number of BME groups had far higher proportions on free school meals:

Ethnic Group

% Eligible for Free School Meals

Travellers of Irish heritage




Mixed white and black Caribbean


Mixed white and black African


Any other black background




White British



Material deprivation

Material deprivation is an additional way of measuring living standards and tells us whether families can afford basic goods and services, including items such as a warm coat for children and keeping accommodation warm in winter. According to the ONS, in 2019, 29% of Bangladeshi, 24% of Pakistani, 22% of black children were living on low incomes and suffered material deprivation (i.e. a family income less than 70% of the average income before housing costs).

Weekly average income

Between 2016 and 2019, while white British households had an average income of £518 per week; black African, British and Caribbean had an average of £408; Bangladeshi households had an average of £365 and Pakistani households had an average of £334.[2] Over a two-year period between 2016 and 2018, ONS reported that while white British people had an average household wealth (including property, savings and pension) of £590,400 and Indians had £493,800, black Caribbean people had only £379,200;  Pakistani people had £302,100; black African people had £147,300 and Bangladeshi people had £141,100.


Home-ownership is often seen as an indicator of prosperity. The government’s Racial Disparity Audit in 2020 found that between 2016 and 2018, 63% of 23 million households in England owned their homes. In every socio-economic group and age group, white British households were more likely to own their own homes than all ethnic minority households combined. While 68% of white British households owned their homes, figures for other poorer groups were 58% for Pakistani households, 46% for Bangladeshi, 40% for black Caribbean and 20% for black African households.

Living conditions

Non-decent homes

A home is declared non-decent if it does not meet basic legal health and safety standards, is not in a reasonable state of repair, does not have reasonably modern facilities and services, insulation or heating that is not effective. Government data has revealed that between April 2017 to March 2019, 18% of white British households lived in non-decent homes. In comparison, 24% of Bangladeshi households and 20% of black Caribbean households lived in non-decent homes.


Homes which are damp (through water penetration or poor ventilation) may have severe condensation and/or mould which are a health risk. While only 3 % of white British households live in damp properties, it is estimated that 10% of Bangladeshis, 9% of Black Africans and 8% of Pakistani households do.


Households that are considered to be overcrowded have fewer bedrooms than needed to avoid undesirable sharing. While only 2% of white British households were officially overcrowded, the households with the highest rates of overcrowding were Bangladeshi (24%), Pakistani (18%), black African (16%), Arab (15%) and mixed white and black African (14%).


The government’s Racial Disparity Audit in 2017 found that the local authority with the highest number of homeless households per 1,000 households was Newham in London (9.4 per 1,000), where Asian households made up the highest percentage of homeless households (at 36%). More recently, Shelter analysed government statistics on homelessness between April 2019 and March 2020. It found that a quarter (24%) of people making homelessness applications to local councils were from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups, even though they made up just over a tenth (11%) of all households in England. Black people are disproportionately affected by homelessness with 1 in 23 black households becoming homeless or threatened with homelessness, versus 1 in 83 households from all other ethnicities combined. 11% of homeless people applying for help are black even though black people make up 3% of households in England. A person who is black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) becomes homeless or threatened with homelessness every eight minutes.

Precarious work

According to a report from the Trade Union Congress  and ROTA in 2021, women of colour are almost twice as likely than white men to be on zero-hours contracts i.e., work in jobs that provide no  fixed wage, but you work as and when. Such contracts trap women in low pay and insecure work, unable to plan their lives and futures. While 2.5% of white men were on zero-hour contracts, 4.1% of BME men were and 4.5% of BME women. 40% of BME workers on such contracts feared being penalised by losing shifts if they ever turned down work, as compared with 25% of white workers.


The Office for National Statistics recently published figures from an annual population survey in 2019 on unemployment in the UK. The survey concluded that in every region in the UK, unemployment rates were lower for white people (at 4%) than for all other ethnic groups combined. Moreover, black, Bangladeshi, and Pakistani people had the highest rate of unemployment (8%) out of all ethnic groups. Among ethnic minority women, unemployment was highest for Bangladeshi and Pakistani women (11%). Just 3% of white women were likely to be unemployed as compared with 7% of women from all BME groups combined.

Impact of COVID-19 on unemployment

The Runnymede Trust’s Covid-19 survey, Over-Exposed and Under-Protected, in June 2020 indicates that these statistics have remained consistent during the pandemic. The survey revealed that 37% of Bangladeshis and 31% of Pakistanis were unemployed, with black Caribbeans and black Africans faring a little better at unemployment rates of 29% and 13%, respectively. A House of Commons Briefing Paper published in March 2021 concurred, stating that workers from minority ethnicities have been one of the groups most negatively impacted economically by the coronavirus outbreak. Between October to December 2020, the unemployment rate for people from a BME background was 9.5%, while it was 3.1% for white people. This follows the trend across the previous year as between September 2019 to 2020, the unemployment rate was highest for people from a Pakistani or black background at 9%. The unemployment rate was lowest for people from a white or Indian background at 4%.

Youth unemployment

These patterns of unemployment especially during COVID-19 are mirrored in youth unemployment. In April 2021, the Resolution Foundation found that youth unemployment rose faster between spring and autumn 2020 than at any point since the 2008 financial crisis. Before Covid-19, the unemployment rate among black young people, at 25%, was higher than among their Asian counterparts, at 21%, and 2.5 times the rate of their white counterparts, at 10%. By May 2020, the unemployment rate among black young people rose to 35% as compared with 13% for their white counterparts. Employment also fell by 6.6 % among black young people compared to 3.5 % among white young people. Although they had higher-levels of education participation, black and Asian young people who were economically active (and therefore not in full-time study) continued to face a more difficult time in the labour market.



[1] Health Equity in England (2020)

[2] House of Commons Library (2020)