Ethnicity and poverty: employer attitudes and behaviour

Funded by: Joseph Rowntree Foundation


September 2010 to October 2010

Background, summary and aims

Background, Scope and Aims

While ethnic minorities were eight per cent of the UK population in 2001, this is projected to grow to 20 per cent by 2051. Ethnic minorities have lower employment and higher inactivity rates than the overall population and this gap has remained largely unchanged for a generation. Moreover, in-work poverty is higher for some black and minority ethnic groups than the majority white population.

The proposed distillation paper seeks to draw conclusions from evidence on the employer role in the generation of high levels of in-work poverty amongst some BME groups. The main questions to be answered are:

  1. What role do the decisions made by employers play in creating the patterns of work which contribute to high levels of in-work poverty among some groups?
  2. How does this vary across different kinds of employers?
  3. How much do we know about how to change these decisions to improve the situation?

Project Design

The methodology for preparing the distillation paper will involve three main steps.

First, the evidence around ethnic-specific employment gaps and dynamics of in-work poverty will be structured and summarised considering the main patterns identified in the literature, for example in relation to pay and sectoral segregation.

Second, the research will look specifically at the employer contribution to this employment gap, mindful of supply side factors likely to interact with employers’ behaviour.

In the third step, the contribution of all these factors in explaining the ethnic-specific employment gap and in-work poverty will be assessed in two ways. Firstly, to identify gaps in the evidence and knowledge base on how to change employers' decisions. Secondly, the potential influence of available policy options on employer attitudes and behaviour will be considered.

The final distillation paper will state the main conclusions of this analysis and identify key issues for the forthcoming JRF programme.

Importance of Research

The distillation paper will identify what is currently known about equity and fairness in employer decision-making relevant to ethnicity and poverty. It will also outline key gaps in knowledge and potential areas for further research.