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Languages, ethnicity, and education in London


  • Michelle von Ahn

    () (London Borough of Newham)

  • Ruth Lupton

    () (London School of Economics and Political Science)

  • Charley Greenwood

    () (Institute of Education, University of London)

  • Dick Wiggins

    () (Institute of Education, University of London.)


For the first time in 2008 the Annual School Census (ASC) required all schools to provide pupil information on the language spoken at home. Our analysis focuses on children attending state schools in London. Over 300 languages are spoken by London pupils, around 60% of London pupils are English speakers however, there are over 40 languages spoken by more than 1,000 pupils. Bengali, Urdu and Somali are the top three languages spoken in London, other than English. We show that English has a `doughnut' shaped geographical distribution in London, being the predominant language in most of Outer London. Languages other than English are more common in Inner London. Most minority languages, such as Bengali, Urdu and Turkish, have one, two or three main clusters, reflected settled immigrant communities. However others, notably Somali, are widely dispersed. This has implications for service provision. Some of the ethnic categories that are widely used in analysis of Census data hide substantial linguistic diversity, particularly `Black African' and `White Other.' Within London, where these groups are numerous, language data provides a valuable disaggregation of these heterogeneous groups. Our work suggests that language spoken provides a means to better understand the relationship between ethnicity and educational performance.

Suggested Citation

  • Michelle von Ahn & Ruth Lupton & Charley Greenwood & Dick Wiggins, 2010. "Languages, ethnicity, and education in London," DoQSS Working Papers 10-12, Department of Quantitative Social Science - UCL Institute of Education, University College London.
  • Handle: RePEc:qss:dqsswp:1012

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    Languages; London; ethnicity; educational performance;

    JEL classification:

    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • R23 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis - - - Regional Migration; Regional Labor Markets; Population
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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