Monday, September 19, 2011

Religion in Britain: poverty and crime

I noted earlier that various religious groups are disproportionately represented in Britain's prisons, with Buddhists, Muslims and those of no religion over-represented. Thinking about this later I realised that another group generally over-represented in prison are the poor.

This 2010 An Anatomy of Economic Inequality in the UK by Britain's National Equality Panel gives us this graph comparing hourly pay by different ethno-religious groups. The number zero here is what white British Christian men get paid.
So Sikh men earn around the same as Christian men, while Sikh women earn around the same as Christian women. In the other figures we saw that the number of Sikhs in prison was absolutely proportional for the Sikh population of England and Wales, while Christians were under-represented.

Hindu men earn slightly less than Christian men, while Hindu women actually earn more than Christian women. In the other figures we saw that Hindus were under-represented in prison.

Jews in this study earn more than Christians, and Jews are under-represented in prison.

So far we're broadly seeing a trend: the richer religious groups are those with below average representation in prison. Likewise Muslims are over-represented in prison, and they earn less than the white Christians. After this the results are a little harder to follow. The National Equality Panel report gives no statistic for Buddhist income, though the 'Chinese no religion' group do earn less. A wider view of nonreligious people is also missing.

Another National Equality Panel document gives us this graph, showing employment status of each religious group:
This is a little less clear, but again Muslims and Buddhists have the highest levels of non-employment. Jews, Hindus and Christians do well, while Sikhs and 'any other religion' come in between.

If relatively poorer people and unemployed people are more likely to be involved in crime, then the higher proportion of Muslims and Buddhists in British prisons might be explained partly by the higher proportion of Muslims and Buddhists earning less or out of employment.

But that just shifts the explanation further down the line a little. I still haven't shown why these religious groups have lower levels of employment and income than the others in Britain. If you have any thoughts, feel free to comment, thanks.

1 comment:

  1. I think you mistake Chinese ethnicity as a marker of Buddhist religion. Many Chinese are not religious in the Western sense and would best be described as syncretistic, if they are religious at all.

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