Persisting disadvantages: a study of labour market dynamics of ethnic unemployment and earnings in the UK (2009–2015)

Publication type

Journal Article

Published in

Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies


Yaojun Li and Anthony Heath

Publication date


This paper investigates the ethnic dynamics of unemployment and earnings in the UK. Drawing on data from the first six waves of Understanding Society, the UK Household Longitudinal Study (2009–2014), the analysis shows that ethnic minority members, particularly black African, black Caribbean, Pakistani and Bangladeshi minorities, face much higher risks of unemployment and have much lower levels of earnings than do their white British counterparts over the life course. Ethnic minorities are not only more likely to face unemployment, previous experiences of unemployment also carry more enduring scars for them than for the majority group in terms of reemployment and pay. Even with similar levels of prior unemployment, ethnic minorities are more susceptible to delayed re-entry and wage penalties than are their white British peers. The life-course trajectories in unemployment and lower pay, coupled with unemployment scarring, suggest cumulative ethnic disadvantages in the UK.





Labour Market, Unemployment, Wages And Earnings, Ethnic Groups and Life Course Analysis


Online Early; Open Access; This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.; Special Issue: Ethnic Diversity in the UK: new opportunities and changing constraints