Mar 17, 2021 | by Nissa Finney

Improving the representation of ethnic and religious minorities in data

We have an Invitation to Tender for a consultant to help develop our Covid-19 crowdsourcing project on how different people have been impacted in different ways. This is part of our strategic focus to protect and improve community connections, and methods and measures for wellbeing.

> Read the Invitation to Tender


Reports of the uneven effects of the pandemic on ethnic minorities suggest that certain groups have experienced severe and long-lasting impacts on their health and economic circumstances. In August, Public Health England reported on disparities in risk of Covid-19 across ethnic groups and spurred debate about why such inequalities are emerging.

The relatively high deprivation of ethnic minority populations and other structural inequalities, such as in occupation, make ethnic minority populations particularly vulnerable to Covid-19. These embedded ethnic inequalities have been well documented in the work of the ESRC Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity

Some have also pointed to the significance of racism, both as a heightened experience in 2020 and as a driving force of persistent ethnic inequalities. 

In order to understand this better, the Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity along with researchers in a number of UK universities, has launched the new Evidence for Equality National Survey (EVENS). This is the first and largest survey of its kind to document and understand the lives of ethnic and religious minorities in Britain. The survey is administered by Ipsos MORI and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. 

Where are the data gaps?

One of the problems in advancing these debates – and policy responses – is that there is not enough data to thoroughly understand how and why experiences in 2020 diverge for ethnic and religious groups. Yes, there is now a great deal of ethnicity monitoring. Yes, data on ethnic and religious groups have improved massively in surveys and censuses in the last two decades. Yet, we still face a severe data shortage.

The problem is that no source combines up-to-date information about the lives of ethnic and religious minorities with sample sizes that enable robust conclusions about the populations as a whole. Surveys (such as Understanding Society) ask about a host of fascinating topics, but have insufficient numbers of participants from ethnic and religious minorities despite boosted samples. Data from the census and administrative sources have good coverage of minority populations, but are limited in the topics they cover.

How will the survey help?

The Evidence for Equality National Survey will address these limitations. The survey data will be publicly available later in the year, available freely to researchers and organisations via the UK Data Archive. The survey is innovative and unrivalled in a number of ways. It will:

  • Survey more ethnic and religious minorities than any other survey. The sample of 20,000 will include 17,000 ethnic and religious minorities to enable robust analyses for individual groups, and in comparison to one another.
  • Survey more ethnic and religious groups than other data, across all areas of Britain. Importantly, EVENS will include minority groups, such a Gypsy Roma Traveller communities, Sub-Saharan African and Jewish populations, who are particularly marginalised in current data. 
  • Capture ethnicity in more nuanced ways. In addition to asking standardised ethnicity and religion questions, EVENS allows respondents to write-in their ethnic identity in their own terms.
  • Cover topics not included in other data that are of relevance to policy and practice, including experiences of racism, policing, wellbeing, caring and social isolation. On wellbeing, EVENS asks about feeling nervous, anxious or on edge, worrying, irritability, feeling afraid (GAD-7 indicators); feeling depressed, restless, happy, lonely, sad (CES-D-8 indicators); worries about job security and racism/harassment; and loneliness and social isolation.
  • Take a novel non-probability approach to survey recruitment, reaching people whose lives are rarely documented.
  • Represent a cross-sector partnership of academics, Voluntary, Community and advocacy organisations, including the Race Equality Foundation, Operation Black Vote and the NHS Race and Health Observatory establishing from the outset a platform for effecting change.

More survey data will not be enough to address the inequalities faced by ethnic and religious minorities. But EVENS will provide more detailed, comprehensive and robust data than has ever existed to enable activism, from grassroots to government, to ‘level up’ post-pandemic Britain.   

We invite ethnic and religious minorities (18+) to take part in EVENS and be part of the evidence. Those who complete the survey will receive a gift voucher as a ‘thankyou’.

Covid-19 wellbeing evidence

We collated evidence on how people from ethnic minorities have been affected by Covid-19

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Covid-19 wellbeing evidence

We collated evidence on how people from ethnic minorities have been affected by Covid-19

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