Racial Wealth Inequality in the UK

7 Apr 2022

Black and minority ethnic people in Britain face extensive and persistent economic inequality. It is not an even playing field; it’s not even close.

Black African and Bangladeshi households have 10p for every £1 of White British wealth. This wealth disparity is based on a long history of discrimination and injustice; this is not randomly patterned.



The Race Relations Act of 1968 outlawed discrimination in housing and employment, finally making the ‘No Blacks, no dogs, no Irish’ signs illegal. In reality, this did little to provide a remedy for people racially discriminated by employers, as it is almost impossible to prove intent.

To put it plainly, you were allowed to be openly racist in the lifetime of most of our parents. Racism didn’t disappear as soon as it was outlawed in 1968; people continued to racially discriminate people by economically excluding them.

“A child who started school in 1971 would have known almost no BME neighbours unless they lived in a major city. That same child is 58 years old today, roughly the median age of a FTSE 100 board member.”

These same board members had parents who lived through a Britain where it was normal to have ‘No Blacks, no dogs, No Irsh’ signs.

“It’s not a perfect system but things are definitely better now?”

According to the Runnymede report, “broadly speaking in the period 1993-2014 there have been very little narrowing of ethnic pay gaps and for some groups they have actually increased, particularly among men.”

The report finds that economic inequality today with the employment gap is not much different to what it was in the 1980s. To reiterate, 40 years of no change is not randomly patterned.

“That’s still an old example, I don’t see where there’s a disadvantage today”

A 2018 report found that “people with African and Asian sounding surnames have to send twice as many CV’s to get an interview”. This is not an arbitrary or random inequality, it is based on “deep-seated, sometimes subconscious, views about their competencies or skills".”

This has been confirmed in a recent study showing BME Russell Group graduates have a higher risk of being unemployed. In addition, “nearly 40% of Black African graduates are in non-graduate jobs, nearly double the White British rate of 20%.”

This is not randomly patterned.

“Yeah okay I get your point, but there’s plenty of diversity in my workplace”

The presence of successful black people does not prove the absence of racial inequality. Racial inequality doesn’t end in seeing Black faces at work. There are more FTSE 100 CEOs called Steve than there are ethnic minorities. This is not randomly patterned.

The report continues, “in a competitive market where people make quick and close decisions affecting recruitment, assessments and progression on a daily basis, even a tiny racial preference can have significant consequences.”

"But isn’t this a class issue?”

Race and class are closely linked in this way. Black people have experienced a very recent history of being financially excluded and as a result they have a disproportionately more difficult task of escaping poverty.

This is why, among age adults, 19% of white people in Britain are living in poverty, while Black groups, including both Caribbean and African, have over double that figure at 39%.

BME individuals and communities experience a lack of financial capital, as they have been continuously been displaced from finance or loan capital, which many still struggle to access. This is not randomly patterned.

History Lesson

“The idea of race is usually dated to the seventeenth century, where Europeans began the transatlantic slave trade, transporting Africans to North and South America. To justify the economic exploitation, especially at a time when Enlightenment philosophers were advancing universal theories of human equality, required a complex apparatus that is viewed as the original racist thinking. This sort of thinking was also at the heart of colonial projects, which were in turn the basis on which European economies - especially Britain’s - then developed".”

Racism was profitable, the impacts are still felt today.


“The persistent and widespread nature of racial inequalities derives from the deep and pervasive racial stereotypes that emerged to justify the economic domination first of people of African descent (via enslavement and then colonialism) and then of Asian descent (via colonialism).

The fact that in 2018 people with Asian or African sounding surnames have to send twice as many CV’s just to get an interview indicates how crudely but subliminally these stereotypes play out.”

This reality is not randomly patterned.