BAME communities better at reducing neighbourhood communication during lockdown

New research from the University of Essex and the London School of Economics has looked in detail at neighbourhood communication during the coronavirus lockdown and found that ethnic minority communities reported less neighbourhood interaction than majority White British communities.

The findings come from the main Understanding Society survey and the Understanding Society COVID-19 survey, which asks participants specifically about their experiences during the coronavirus outbreak. Over 9,500 individuals were included in the analysis. Dr Alita Nandi (University of Essex) and Professor Lucinda Platt (LSE) compared the perceived levels of social interaction in neighbourhoods pre-pandemic with interaction levels reported during the pandemic in the Understanding Society COVID-19 survey.

Before the coronavirus outbreak levels of social interaction were broadly the same across all ethnic groups in the UK. In June 2020, the findings show that there was a decline in perceived neighbourhood communication consistent with the requirements of the lockdown and social distancing. This decline was apparent in all communities, but was particularly noticeable in Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Black Caribbean communities. In Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities, women in particular perceived lower levels of neighbourhood communication. These findings suggest that social distancing was practiced by all ethnic groups, and particularly by those in the Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities.

Change in responses to question on neighbourhood communication between Wave 9 (2017/18) and COVID-19 Wave 3 (June 2020).


Whether people lived in a community with a high number of other people from the same ethnic group did not affect adhering to social distancing - the researchers found no evidence for variation in declines in social interaction across groups according to the ethnic density of the area. The suggestion that some BAME groups have ignored social distancing is not supported by this evidence. In contrast, ethnic minority communities appear to have been better at reducing community interaction than White British groups.

Dr Alita Nandi said, “There are currently many claims about what is driving differences in Covid-19 risks across ethnic groups. It is important to see if the data support these arguments. For instance, we find no supporting evidence that ethnic minorities are less likely to observe social distancing.”

Professor Lucinda Platt said, “These findings show how the pandemic is having different social impacts across groups. What is striking is that this is the case even when accounting for individual characteristics such as age, family circumstances and employment status.”

Read more about this analysis in the COVID-19 survey briefing note: Ethnic differences in effects of COVID-19: household and local context