People shop in Kingston Upon Thames town centre on April 19th, 2008 in London, England.
Cate Gillon/Getty Images
People shop in Kingston Upon Thames town centre on April 19th, 2008 in London, England.

Story highlights

The latest census data shows that white Britons are no longer a majority in London

The data also says that Britons are better educated, less likely to own a home and less religious

Migration was responsible for 60% of the population growth from 2001 to 2011

India and Poland are the top two sources of new migrants to England

Financial Times —  

White Britons no longer make up the majority of people in London for the first time, according to the latest census data which pointed to a cosmopolitan capital increasingly divergent from the national economy around it.

The 2011 data also revealed a population of England and Wales that is generally better educated but less religious than it was a decade ago – and less likely to live in a home that they own.

The total population rose by 3.7m to 56.1m, an increase of 7 per cent from the previous census in 2001. Migration was responsible for 60 per cent of that growth – 2.1m people.

Of the 13 per cent of the population who were born outside the UK – 7.5m residents – just more than half arrived within the past 10 years. This compares with the 2001 census, when 9 per cent of the population was born outside the UK.

The surge of immigration has been especially striking in London, where more than one in three people – 37 per cent – were born outside the UK.

Only 45 per cent of London’s population were white people of English, Scottish or Welsh heritage, according to the latest data, down from almost 60 per cent in 2001.

This makes London the first UK region where white ethnic Britons have become a minority.

The top source of new migrants to England and Wales overall for the decade was India – supplanting Ireland in the decade to 2001 – while the second-biggest source was Poland. In the 2001 census, Poland did not make the top 10.

In another major deomographic shift, home ownership has fallen over the past 10 years, according to this latest data, marking the first decade-on-decade decline since detailed records began 60 years ago.

The figures show how growing numbers of Britons are being locked out of the property market by high prices and a shortage of credit. The proportion of residents who either owned their home outright or owned with a mortgage fell to 64 per cent in 2011, from 68 per cent in 2001, said the Office for National Statistics.

However, a bigger proportion, 31 per cent, owned their homes outright than they did a decade ago, highlighting a growing divergence between homeowners and those unable to get on the housing ladder.

“These figures confirm that home ownership is slipping further and further out of reach, no matter how hard people work or save,” said Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, the housing charity. “Young people are living at home well into their 30s … but unable to afford a place of their own.”

The percentage of the population renting from private landlords rose 6 percentage points from a decade earlier to 15 per cent.

Overall, the population of England and Wales has become better educated than it was a decade ago. A higher percentage have university degrees than have no qualifications, a reversal of the situation in 2001.

Levels of educational attainment in London are far higher than the national averages, with 27.2 per cent of the national population having attained a university degree or better, compared with 44.7 per cent of those living in inner London.

Indeed, in five of 14 inner London boroughs, more than half the population have university or equal level qualifications.

And Britain is apparently becoming less religious. The question on religious affiliation is voluntary, so not all applicants may have answered it. However, the percentage identifying themselves as Christian fell to 59 per cent, from 72 per cent in 2001. Christianity was the only religious group to have experienced a fall in numbers, despite the growth in the population generally.

The second-largest religious identity was none at all. In 2011, a quarter of the population said it had no religious affiliation, up from 15 per cent in 2001, according to the figures released by the Office for National Statistics on Tuesday.