Just Sociology

Exploring Ethnic Diversity in the UK: South Asian Family Life Fertility Rates and Interracial Relationships

In recent years, the United Kingdom (UK) has experienced a steady increase in ethnic diversity, with different cultural and ethnic groups now contributing to the social fabric of the country. This article aims to explore ethnic diversity in the UK, with a specific focus on South Asians and their family life.

The article will begin by examining the demographics of the UK population by ethnicity, followed by an analysis of the increase in ethnic minorities between the 2001 and 2011 censuses. The second section will delve into the family network and kin-relations in South-Asian families, highlighting patriarchal, collectivist, and honour-based ideals, along with the importance of honour and its patriarchal nature.

Ethnic Diversity in the UK

The UK is a culturally diverse country, hosting individuals from different ethnic backgrounds. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimated that the non-White British population was approximately 9.6 million, which made up 14.9% of the total population in mid-2020.

The rest of the population was White British, estimating at 55.9 million or 85.1%. The significant ethnic minority groups in the UK include Asians, Blacks, Mixed ethnicity, and Other, apart from White British.

As of 2011, the Asian ethnic group accounted for 7.5% of the UK population, i.e., approximately 4.6 million people, followed by Black Africans and Caribbeans, who made up 3.3% and 1.2% of the population, respectively. The Mixed ethnic group accounted for 2.2% of the population, whereas White Irish and White Other accounted for 1.2% and 1.4%, respectively.

Furthermore, the Other ethnic group made up 0.6% of the UK population in 2011.

Increase in Ethnic Minorities from 2001 to 2011 Census

The increase in ethnic minorities in the UK is staggering. The population saw a 3.3 million increase from 2001 to 2011, with the Bangladeshi ethnic group recording the most significant growth (60% increase), followed by the Pakistani ethnic group (57%).

The population of Chinese increased by 50%, while the population of Black African and Caribbean ethnicities increased by 38% and 30%, respectively. The White ethnic group population increased by only 1.1 million (2%).

Moreover, the Mixed ethnic group population increased by 3.1%, and the Indian ethnic group population increased by 43%. The increase in ethnic minorities in the UK is a reflection of growing migration and changing demographic patterns of the country.

South Asian Family Life in the UK

The South Asian community in the UK has a unique family structure that is centred on patriarchal, collectivist, and honour-based traditions. The patriarchal nature of South Asian families can be traced back to colonial times when families were usually organised along gendered lines.

Women were traditionally confined to the domestic sphere, while men provided economic support and headed the family. The ideal family structure was seen as one in which women were subordinate to men.

In South Asian families, the concept of collectivism is highly valued. This means that the interests of the family take precedence over individual interests.

Personal sacrifices are expected for the unity and survival of the family. This value system can be observed in how South Asians carry out their daily activities, such as attending family events, sharing living accommodation, pooling resources, and taking collective decisions.

The South Asian community holds the notion of honour in high regard, and it plays an essential role in shaping family dynamics. Honour refers to the integrity of a family, which is demonstrated through the conduct of its members.

South Asian families believe that honour lies in a woman’s virginity before marriage and her chastity while married. A family’s honour can be damaged by the actions of an individual family member, such as engaging in pre-marital or extra-marital sex, pursuing individualistic interests over family interests, and westernising their behaviour.

The importance of Honour and its Patriarchal Nature

The concept of honour is intrinsically linked to patriarchy in South Asian families. The honour of the family is dependent on the actions of women concerning their sexual behaviour and their general comportment.

Marriage is highly valued in South Asian families, and the woman’s sexual purity is seen as a determinant of her worthiness to marry or remain married. Honour is also linked to the family’s reputation, which is why a family’s honour can be damaged if its women are deemed to have violated the cultural codes of behaviour.

Moreover, patriarchal norms dictate that women must be submissive to men in South Asian families. This means that women are expected to follow the directions of their fathers, husbands, or other male members of the family.

They are also supposed to take care of the domestic aspects of the household, such as cooking, cleaning, and childcare, while men provide economic support. Women who do not follow these norms face the risk of being ostracised from the family, losing their role and status in it.


The UK is a culturally diverse country comprised of a considerable proportion of ethnic minorities, with South Asian individuals making up a significant percentage. The South Asian community has unique family structures, which are highly patriarchal, collectivist, and honour-based.

Patriarchal norms dictate that women are subordinate to men, with marriage being highly valued. Honour is also an important concept in South Asian family life, with a woman’s sexual purity being viewed as integral to upholding the family’s reputation.

As the UK becomes more diverse, it is essential that we understand the cultural beliefs and practices of different ethnic groups, which shape their family lives.The UK is experiencing significant demographic changes, as many individuals from various ethnic backgrounds come to call the country home. Ethnic diversity brings with it various household structures and cultural practices that must be understood to promote inclusivity and equality.

This article will delve into the household types among ethnic minorities in the UK, along with attitudes towards marriage and sexuality among British Asians. Household Types among Ethnic Minorities in the UK:

Households among ethnic minorities in the UK vary by ethnicity, with variations in size, composition and structure.

According to the 2011 census, household types vary by ethnicity, with Asian households being the largest, averaging 3.4 people, compared to mixed-ethnic households that averaged 2.4 people. White households were the smallest, averaging 2.3 people.

There are also differences in household type among ethnic minorities. For example, Asian households often have extended family living arrangements, with grandparents, aunts, or uncles residing with the immediate family.

Black households often consist of lone female parents, while mixed ethnicity households are more commonly cohabiting couples. Differences in cohabiting, lone person, lone parent, and pensioner couple households:

Cohabiting households are moderately prevalent among ethnic minority groups, with around 11% consisting of cohabiting couples.

This is lower than the 16% of cohabiting households in the White British population. Black ethnic groups are more likely to have lone parent households, with around 35% compared to the UK average of 22%.

Pensioner couples comprised approximately 20% of all households in non-White British groups, which is higher than the 16% recorded in the White British population. Mixed ethnic groups have the highest percentage of lone parent households, with around 29%, compared to the UK average of 22%.

Asian households are less likely to be lone person households, with only 25% compared to 34% of the UK average. Attitudes to Marriage and Sexuality among British Asians:

The South Asian community in the UK generally has conservative views on sex before marriage and same-sex relationships.

These beliefs are rooted in religion and culture, with the majority of British Asians identifying themselves as Muslim, Hindu, or Sikh. Unmarried individuals engaging in pre-marital sex are often stigmatised and morally judged, while same-sex relationships are also viewed as taboo by many.

High proportion of married couples in Bangladeshi, Indian, and Pakistani households:

Marriage is highly valued in South Asian households, with significant proportions of married couples in Bangladeshi, Indian, and Pakistani households. As of the 2011 census, 80% of Bangladeshi households, 65% of Indian households, and 75% of Pakistani households consisted of a married couple.

This is significantly higher than the UK average of 48% of households being married couples. The emphasis on marriage is connected to South Asian cultural and religious values, which see family honour as a priority.

Marriage thus functions as a means of maintaining family unity, social status, and cultural continuity. It is also common for parents to play a significant role in deciding their children’s marriages, with arranged marriages still prevalent in many South Asian households.


The UK’s ethnic diversity brings with it various household types and cultural practices, which must be understood and accommodated to promote inclusivity and equality. There are significant variations in household types among ethnic minority groups, with differences in size, composition and structure.

Attitudes towards marriage and sexuality among British Asians are often conservative, with marriage being highly valued and pre-marital sex and same-sex relationships viewed as taboo. Understanding and respecting these cultural differences is important for promoting diversity and inclusion in the UK.As previously discussed, the South Asian community in the UK highly values marriage as the means of maintaining family unity, social status, and cultural continuity.

However, this cultural and societal pressure to marry can cause significant strains on relationships, leading to divorce among Asian couples. There is also the dark side of Asian family life, with notable instances of forced marriages.

This article will delve into these two important topics and provide a better understanding of these issues. Divorce Among Asian Couples:

Divorce in Asian communities has traditionally been viewed as shameful and taboo, with divorce often seen as a failure and a source of shame for both individuals and their families.

These cultural attitudes towards divorce have created significant barriers for individuals trapped in unhappy marriages. However, changes in social norms and economic factors have contributed to higher divorce rates among young Asians.

Education and professional careers are also increasingly valued among young Asians, causing them to become financially independent and more assertive in their relationships, leading to rising divorce rates. Moreover, second-generation immigrants born and raised in the UK often hold different cultural values and mindsets from their parents’ homeland, leading them to view divorce in a different light.

This generational shift is contributing to individualism, making life choices based on personal desires and interests, rather than traditional family expectations. Forced Marriages Among Asian Families:

Forced Marriage is the practice of uniting individuals into a marriage without their consent, either through coercion, threats of violence, emotional pressure or deception.

While forced marriage is illegal in the UK, it remains a concerning issue, particularly in Asian communities. Forced marriages are a significant violation of human rights and can have severe emotional and mental health consequences.

There have been reported cases of forced marriages within the Asian community in the UK, primarily among South Asians. Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh are among the countries where forced marriages are rife.

According to research, around 31.3 million girls (under the age of 18) in India are married, while, in Pakistan, around 21% of girls are forced into marriage before the age of 18. There are a number of factors driving forced marriages, including culture, religion, and family expectations.

Immigration status may also play a role, as victims may fear deportation or losing contact with their families. Financial gain may also contribute to the prevalence of forced marriages, as families may seek to consolidate socio-economic resources or have financial incentives for arranging marriage.

The UK government has enforced legislation regarding forced marriages, which criminalizes the act, yet intervention can be challenging due to the complex social and cultural dynamics in the community. Such obstacles include the fear of breaking cultural norms, societal fragmentation, and pressure on victims to keep silent.


Divorce and forced marriage among Asian families are two significant issues that the UK’s South Asian ethnic population is grappling with. High rates of divorce indicate a shifting cultural mindset toward personal happiness and freedom, while forced marriages trap individuals in situations they ought not to be in.

The cultural and traditional pressures placed upon Asian communities to retain cultural continuity and uphold cultural expectations contribute to forced marriages in the community. In conclusion, understanding and addressing these issues are critical to promoting human rights and respect for Asian communities.Two additional topics – fertility rates among non-UK born mothers and interracial relationships – further expand on our understanding of the UK’s ethnic and cultural diversity.

Fertility rates and interracial relationships are two dynamic areas that can affect the social and cultural landscape of the UK. This article will discuss these topics in detail.

Fertility Rates among Non-UK Born Mothers:

Fertility rates in the UK depend on various demographic factors, including age, ethnicity, and nativity. Non-UK born mothers tend to have higher fertility rates compared to the UK-born population.

The difference in fertility rates can be associated with factors such as culture, tradition, and religion. According to a 2019 report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the fertility rate for non-UK born women was 2.18 children per woman compared to 1.56 children per woman for UK-born women.

Fertility rates were highest among women from Asian regions, including the Middle East, South Asia, and Far East, and Africa. While non-UK born mothers have traditionally had higher fertility rates, recent data suggests that this trend is leveling off, with some communities witnessing a decline in fertility rates.

The rates of decline in fertility rates varied among different regions and communities, with some regions experiencing dramatic declines, while others remained relatively stable. These changes in fertility rates reflect the changing demographic patterns in the UK and the impact of migration on population growth.

Interracial Relationships in the UK:

Interracial relationships have become increasingly common in the UK, reflecting the country’s diverse ethnic and cultural makeup. Interracial relationships refer to romantic or sexual relationships between people from different racial backgrounds.

The increasing numbers of interracial relationships are indicative of the UK’s changing demographics and the shifting cultural attitudes towards inter-racial coupling. Attitudes towards interracial relationships have shifted significantly in recent years, with younger generations being more accepting of such relationships.

According to a 2018 survey by YouGov, 85% of those aged 18-24 said interracial relationships were “not a problem at all” compared to 70% of 25-49-year-olds, 63% of 50-64-year-olds, and 49% of those aged 65 and above. However, there are variations in the number of interracial relationships by age group and racial background.

Interracial relationships are more common among younger people, with those aged 18-24 being the most likely to engage in such relationships. Furthermore, Asian women and White men are the most common pairing in interracial relationships.

In contrast, Black women and White men are the least likely to be in such relationships. Interracial relationships may help build bridges among different ethnic communities, reducing prejudices and increasing inter-cultural understanding.

However, at the same time, they also raise challenges because they carry the potential for cultural and social misunderstandings. The challenges of interracial relationships may be reflected in the wider societal challenges associated with integrating different ethnic communities.


Fertility rates among non-UK born mothers and interracial relationships are two dynamic areas that impact the cultural and social landscape of the UK. The higher fertility rates among non-UK born mothers are associated with factors such as culture, tradition, and religion, and have traditionally been higher than UK-born mothers, although recent data suggests a slowdown in the trend.

Interracial relationships in the UK are becoming more common, reflecting the country’s diverse ethnic and cultural makeup. Attitudes toward interracial relationships are shifting, with younger generations being more accepting of such relationships.

While these changes are indicative of the changing fabric of the UK society, they also pose challenges that require effective cultural and social integration. In conclusion, this article has shed light on various aspects of ethnic diversity in the UK, including demographic patterns, family life, attitudes towards marriage and sexuality, divorce, forced marriages, fertility rates, and interracial relationships.

Understanding and valuing cultural differences is vital for promoting diversity and inclusion in the UK. The changing landscape of UK society and the cultural and social dynamics associated with it reflect the country’s increasing cultural diversity.

The significance lies in creating open and respectful dialogue that promotes mutual understanding and celebrates cultural diversity. FAQs:

Q: What are the significant ethnic minority groups in the UK?

A: The significant ethnic minority groups in the UK include Asians, Blacks, Mixed ethnicity, and others, apart from White British. Q: How has the UK’s ethnic diversity been changing?

A: The UK’s ethnic diversity has been increasing steadily, with different cultural and ethnic groups now contributing to the country’s social fabric. Q: What is the role of marriage in South Asian families in the UK?

A: Marriage is highly valued in South Asian families,

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