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Inside the box: ethnic choice and ethnic change for mixed people in the United Kingdom

Mok, Tze Ming (2019) Inside the box: ethnic choice and ethnic change for mixed people in the United Kingdom. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis explores why do people with multiple ethnic ancestry variously identify as ‘White’, mixed or as non-mixed minorities in the Census, surveys, and daily life, and why they change their reported ethnic group, using data from Understanding Society: The UK Household Longitudinal Study, and the ONS Longitudinal Study (ONS LS), as well as qualitative interviews. Analysis revealed an unexpected pattern of working class ‘White’ choices and of more privileged ‘Mixed’ choices for those who reported having one White and one non-White parent. Moreover, among those who ever chose a ‘Mixed’ category in two waves of the Census, personal socioeconomic decline in status predicted a destabilisation of mixed choices, and some evidence of moves towards Whiter choices. Qualitative interviews suggested that lower-status White choices were often related to heightened anxieties about racism and exclusion in White working class neighbourhoods. The association between deprivation, sensitivity to risk and context, ethnic change in general, and insecure or defensive White choices in the qualitative data, was potentially explained by the low social trust associated with low socioeconomic status. Meanwhile, secure and stable mixed choices were associated with personal and cultural confidence, and trust in state data collection. This confidence was enabled variously by having a middle class background, having sources of cultural resilience to racism within the family or social networks when young, gains in life experience ‘with age’, and upward social mobility over time. Racialised social hierarchies may not be replicating via straightforward ‘aspirational Whitening’ among mixed people within one generation, but are still being reproduced via constructions of Whiteness as a protective identity.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2019 Tze Ming Mok
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
Sets: Departments > Social Policy
Supervisor: Stewart, Kitty and Platt, Lucinda

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