Introducing EVENS

Population Geographers have a longstanding interest in ethnicity, and an equally longstanding frustration with data limitations. Nissa Finney introduces the new Evidence for Equality National Survey that will change the data landscape on ethnic and religious minorities.

Covid-19 and ethnic inequalities

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 work of the 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. 

What are the data gaps?

One of the problems in advancing these debates – and policy responses – is that there is not enough (of the right kind of) 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 excellent coverage of minority populations, but are limited in the topics they cover.

How will EVENS help?

The ESRC Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity has just launched the new Evidence for Equality National Survey, which is the first and largest survey of its kind to document and understand the lives of ethnic and religious minorities in Britain. EVENS is administered by Ipsos MORI and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

The Evidence for Equality National 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 populations and Jewish, who are particularly marginalised in current data. 
  • Captures 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, social isolation, identity and belonging, black lives matter, social cohesion and political participation, in addition to questions on demographics, socio-economics and (physical and mental) health. 
  • Take a novel non-probability approach to survey recruitment, reaching people whose lives are rarely documented. We are using cutting-edge methods to collect survey data online and via telephone in 13 languages in addition to English. The non-probability nature of the sample requires statistical methods to compensate for the selection bias. These methods rely on probability reference samples that will be used to incorporate ‘randomisation’ into the non-probability sample and allow for statistical inference.
  • Represent a cross-sector partnership of academics, Voluntary, Community and advocacy organisations, including the Race Equality FoundationOperation Black Vote and the NHS Race and Health Observatory establishing from the outset a platform for effecting change.

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

The survey data will be publicly available later in the year, available freely to researchers and organisations via the UK Data Archive.

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

Dr Nissa Finney is a member of the ESRC Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity and Reader in Human Geography at the University of St Andrews. 

Evidence for Equality National Survey (EVENS) team: Dr Nissa Finney (University of St Andrews, CoDE EVENS Lead), Dr Laia Becares (University of Sussex), Professor James Nazroo, Professor Natalie Shlomo, Dr Dharmi Kapadia, Dan Ellingworth, Harry Taylor, Dr Neema Begum (University of Manchester).

@EVENSurvey @ethnicityUK @NissaFinney #EVENSurvey


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