LONDON — The British government on Tuesday unveiled an extraordinary website and accompanying report called the "Race Disparity Audit," which reveals through a trove of data sets how its citizens of different ethnicities and races are faring in health, education, employment and the criminal justice system.
The release of data on a hot-button topic seeks to highlight, rather than hide, stark differences in how the rainbow of people are doing in the multicultural United Kingdom in 2017.
That the data was presented by the conservative Tories did not escape attention — and received some polite applause from their opponents.
The data is especially timely in the wake of the country’s decision last year to break away from the European Union, a vote that was driven in part by anxieties about immigration.
As expected, there is much in the audit that highlights long-known disparities here — blacks are more likely to be arrested, whites more likely to be cops — but the numbers and graphs offer glimpses of life that might be surprising to some.
Adults from an Indian background report the highest average ratings for “happiness” and “the feeling that things they do in life are worthwhile.” British whites are in the middle.
Children from Chinese families excel in school, while British whites, especially boys, often struggle.
Black adults are tops at helping others: “the most likely to participate in some form of formal volunteering on a regular basis.”
The audit found "marked differences between ethnic groups in the extent to which people felt able to influence local decisions." Blacks report that they have the most influence, whites the least.
The proportion of people identifying as “White British” in England and Wales dropped from 87.4 percent in 2001 to 80.5 percent in 2011.
The Times of London called the audit “the most ambitious project of its kind in the world.”
Shortly after becoming prime minister in 2016, Theresa May promised to tackle “burning injustices” experienced by people across the United Kingdom.
During her first speech outside 10 Downing Street, she listed a number of disparities in Britain.
“If you’re born poor, you will die on average nine years earlier than others. If you’re black, you’re treated more harshly by the criminal justice system than if you’re white. If you’re a white, working-class boy, you’re less likely than anybody else in Britain to go to university,” she said.
Shortly afterward, she ordered the audit, saying that it would "reveal difficult truths."
The report found that Asian, black and other ethnic minority groups are the most likely to be in persistent poverty.
It also found that white Britons are more likely than black Britons to own their own homes and to be employed.
Upon release of the audit, First Secretary of State Damian Green said, “We believe that how far you go in life should be based on your talent and how hard you work — and nothing else.”
Will the data sets lead to change or improvement?
BBC home editor Mark Easton wrote in a column: “The people being nudged are the people who sit around the cabinet table with the prime minister — her own government. ‘Explain or change,’ the PM will tell them. Where disparities exist, ministers will be encouraged to explain why they exist.”
The audit is designed to be not just a snapshot but an ongoing project — and an accessible online tool for citizens to judge how well this or any succeeding government is doing.
Regarding health, the British, like their American cousins, could lose a few pounds. The audit found that “more than half of adults in all ethnic groups other than the Chinese group were overweight.”
The report also found that newcomers are trying hard to fit in and that communities are relatively nurturing — that neighbors greet one another frequently, for example.
A substantial majority of adults across all ethnic groups “felt they belonged to Britain.”
Only 1.3 percent of the population age 3 and over cannot speak English well, and just 0.3 percent cannot speak English at all, the audit reported.
Polish is the most common language after English, at 1 percent, followed by Punjabi and Urdu, at fractions.
Karla Adam contributed to this report.