The white reclamation of the central/inner city

Inner city areas are experiencing “white flight”. This is the assumption of many policy-makers, geographers and sociologists. After all this is what was shown by the 2011 census, the last year for which we have comprehensive information on the ethnic background of local populations.


A very different pattern is revealed in this map of Sheffield. It maps ethnic change during the period 2011-2016. The pattern is not unique to Sheffield. The pattern is similar when change in the proportion of the white British population is mapped in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Bristol or other provincial capitals.

The areas coloured red have experienced an increase over this period in the proportion of the adult population who bear names which indicate a white British cultural background. The areas coloured yellow are where the white British population has declined the most. The information has been derived from two postcoded files, each containing the names of 46 million UK adults.

One explanation for this increase in the presence of the white British in inner/central city neighbourhoods is the increased attraction of inner city life, another the policy of encouraging regeneration through the construction of new developments of purpose-built flats.

This, together with changes in housing benefit rules for low income tenants, have forced many members of minorities to search for homes further from the city centre, often in suburbs built during the 1930s. It is from these areas that the white population is currently moving out to commuter villages beyond the boundaries of Sheffield and other large British cities.