Mapping London’s Immigration

Mapping London's immigration

By Chris Vallance
BBC News
March 27, 2008

Sitting in front of two computer screens at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis at University College London, researcher Pablo Mateos is able to look at the ethnic make up of London in an entirely new way.

Mr Mateos is part of a team that has produced new maps of London which show the relative concentrations of the capital's many national and ethnic groups.

The maps reveal where people of different ethnic backgrounds are choosing to live in far more detail than census data alone can provide. And they will soon be available to anyone with access to the internet.

The maps are part of UCL's London Profiler system, developed by Mr Mateos's colleague Maurizio Gibin.

The new maps show the relative concentration of ethnic groups as diverse as London's Ghanaians to the capital's Welsh population.

Names used

The 2001 census surveyed only 16 ethnic categories. According to Mr Mateos, 40% of Londoners are from an ethnic minority and “half of them are outside those core groups”.

To go beyond the census categories, the London Profiler uses an innovative approach to determining ethnicity: people's names.

London Profiler website

UCL's research, lead by Professor Paul Longely, is able to determine the probability a particular name is tied to an ethnic groups.

The system is then able to use the names listed on the electoral register to determine the ethnic make-up of London in much greater detail than the census.

The new maps to be included in the latest version of the profiler throw up some interesting results.

Researchers noticed that people with names of Polish origin seemed to concentrate in a ring around central London corresponding to Zone 3 on the London Underground.

Combining information on ethnicity with data on deprivation also in the profiler throws up interesting avenues for further research and evaluation.

For example, people of African ethnicity tended to live in the east and south of London in areas corresponding to regions of high deprivation. According to Mr Mateos, this may “reflect that these are cheaper areas to live”.

No 'white flight'

The map also shows the distribution of people with typically English names across London. Here the map shows an even distribution, with only a few areas showing significantly below average English population density.

For Mr Mateos, the data doesn't support the concept of widespread so-called white flight.

“This phenomenon cannot be corroborated using names,” he said.

And the maps also indicate some unexpected geographical bedfellows.

While the Greek and Turkish nations have often had an antagonistic relationship, the map shows that in London, Greeks and Turks seem to prefer the same areas north of the capital.

Of course there are a few caveats with the data. Many recent immigrants will not appear on the electoral register and many people choose to opt out of making the information public.

The use of names has its limits too. Some groups, such as Jewish or black-Caribbean communities, have names that are very similar to names associated with the wider English population.

But it's still an improvement on the raw information provided by the census.

The aim of the London Profiler project is to make this kind of data as widely accessible as possible, to help inform the work of primary health care trusts, local councils and other agencies.

And if it's judged to be a success, the UCL team hope to roll it out nationally.