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The Progressive Policy Think Tank

Ethnic inequalities among over-50s revealed in new research

  • Black people in their 50s and 60s have significantly lower weekly income than their white peers, are less likely to own their home outright and are more likely to live in deprived areas
  • Black people may be more likely to be working in their 50s and 60s and to be in low-paid jobs, the data suggests, with White people three times more likely to have retired
  • The data comes from a new research project exploring the factors that prevent people from having a good later life
  • With the proportion of people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups in this age group doubling in a generation, experts warn action is needed now to prevent these inequalities deepening.

New research by the Centre for Ageing Better, IPPR and UCL has revealed shocking ethnic inequalities among those currently in their 50s and 60s.

The analysis shows that Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people aged 50-70 are more likely to be in the poorest fifth of the population in England compared with white people, and that black people are living on an average of £100 less a week compared to white people.  

Despite this, the research also shows that black men and women in their 50s and 60s are more likely to be working – with white people in this age group three times more likely to have retired – suggesting people from these groups are more likely to be in low paid jobs and/or to have less access to other sources of income, such as pension savings and assets.

The research also found significant inequalities in housing. Nearly half of white people in their 50s and 60s own their home outright, compared to just 13% of their black peers. People approaching later life from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds are also more likely to live in deprived neighbourhoods, with nearly a third of black and a quarter of Asian people living in the most deprived areas, compared to just 16% of the white population.

Experts at the Centre for Ageing Better say that the inequalities uncovered by this research are particularly significant as older generations become more diverse: the proportion of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people aged 50-70 has doubled from 4% to 8% since the previous generation.

The data comes from a new research project, a partnership by the Centre for Ageing Better, IPPR and the Institute for Epidemiology and Health at University College London (UCL). Through large-scale quantitative and qualitative research it seeks to uncover which factors contribute most to a ‘good later life’, who is most at risk of missing out on this and how this has changed over time. Key factors examined include financial security, good health, social connections and meaning and purpose.

Anna Dixon, Chief Executive, Centre for Ageing Better, said:

“Our new research shows that ethnic inequalities are deeply entrenched among the generation approaching later life, with those from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds facing disadvantages across many areas of life.

“As older generations become increasingly diverse, it’s vital that these inequalities are tackled so that no-one misses out on a good later life. This means better paid work, more affordable and better housing, and targeted measures to reduce ill health for people approaching later life from BAME backgrounds.

“Unfortunately, ethnic inequalities are not fully understood because we do not collect the data. More research is needed to shed light on the inequalities experienced by Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people in their 50s and 60s so we can act to address them.”

Anna Round, Senior Research Fellow at IPPR, said:  

“All too often, we hear lazy stereotypes applied to everyone in middle or later life. But these findings show stark differences within this age group – for example in health and in financial wellbeing. 

“We need a better understanding of what lies behind these and many other differences, including the inequalities associated with ethnicity that emerge from this research. And we need to collect and analyse the data to build our understanding. That’s essential if we are to work out how everyone can have the best chance of a decent quality of life as we get older.”  

Paola Zaninotto from the Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care at UCL said:

“An increasing number of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people are now approaching later life and our results show that compared to White people they are facing challenges across a large number of areas in their life, putting them at risk of missing out on a good later life.”

Ends

Contact

At IPPR please contact Robin Harvey, digital and media officer: [email protected]

At Centre for Ageing Better, please email [email protected] 

Notes

  • The research primarily presents analysis of the Understanding Society survey, data collected in 2018. Generational differences were calculated using English Longitudinal Study of Ageing data from the first wave of data collection in 2002 compared to the most recent collection in 2018.
  •  The UK’s population is undergoing a massive age shift. In less than 20 years, one in four people will be over 65. The fact that many of us are living longer is a great achievement. But unless radical action is taken by government, business and others in society, millions of us risk missing out on enjoying those extra years. At the Centre for Ageing Better we want everyone to enjoy later life. We create change in policy and practice informed by evidence and work with partners across England to improve employment, housing, health and communities. We are a charitable foundation, funded by The National Lottery Community Fund, and part of the Government’s What Works Network. Visit us at ageing-better.org.uk or follow us on Twitter @Ageing_Better
  • IPPR, the Institute for Public Policy Research, is the UK’s pre-eminent progressive think tank. With more than 40 staff in offices in London, Manchester, Newcastle and Edinburgh, IPPR is Britain’s only national think tank with a truly national presence. www.ippr.org