How the Daily Mail twisted housing statistics to blame immigrants yesterday


8:53 am - July 29th 2013

by Owen Tudor    


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The Daily Mail have managed again to combine two of their obsessions, migration and housing.

In a highly misleading article last week that suggests migrants are preventing existing residents from getting social or council housing.

Luckily the Financial Times has journalists who know how numbers work and don’t trade in scare stories – I am indebted to @StatsJournalist Kate Allen for alerting me to the data behind Steve Doughty’s nasty little piece.

The claim is that nearly 500,000 council homes (the article clarifies in the text that this includes all social housing) have been allocated (“given” is the term inaccurately used) to “immigrants” (although as Kate Allen points out, the data relates to people born abroad, which stretches from Boris Johnson to many children of armed services personnel) in the past decade.

The real story about housing and migration is this. People born outside the UK are much more likely to live in rented accommodation than people born here, because they are poorer.

Of those living in rented accommodation, most people born abroad are in the less beneficial private rented sector. And what we need to ease the waiting lists for social housing isn’t less immigration, it’s more social housing – we need to build more homes people can afford.

The Mail doesn’t point out that seven times as many people born in the UK live in social housing as those born outside, nor that the predominant form of housing tenure for those born in the UK (33 million to 15 million) is home ownership (among those born abroad, the ratio is 3 million to 4 million – they mostly rent.) One reason why people born outside the UK are more likely to be in social housing than people born here is because they’re poorer, and that’s why they concentrate in the least advantageous forms of housing. There are ten times as many native-born homeowners than foreign-born, eight times as many social renting natives, and just over twice as many native-born as foreign-born private tenants.

It’s also worth noting that the more recent the arrival, the more likely foreign-born people are to be private tenants. two thirds of those who arrived before 1981 own their homes (surprisingly similar to the domestic population), but nearly two thirds of those who have arrived since 2001 are private tenants. One in seven recent arrivals are in social housing, compared with one in six of the native born (again, exactly the same proportion for those who arrived before 1981). Not surprisingly, the longer people live in the UK, the more they behave just like those born here.

However, in one of those ironies of right-wing populist politics that gets people at the Mail chewing the carpet, part of the crackdown on immigration that the coalition Government is presiding over – by making private landlords less likely to rent to migrants – will force more recent arrivals into homelessness, thus triggering the requirement on local authorities to provide them with social housing. So a direct result of the Government crackdown on immigration will be an increase in the proportion of social housing going to migrants!

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About the author
Owen Tudor is an occasional contributor to LC. He is head of the TUC’s European Union and International Relations Department and blogs more regularly at the Touchstone blog.
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Reader comments


1. Man on Clapham Omnibus

‘The claim is that nearly 500,000 council homes (the article clarifies in the text that this includes all social housing) have been allocated (“given” is the term inaccurately used) to “immigrants” (although as Kate Allen points out, the data relates to people born abroad, which stretches from Boris Johnson to many children of armed services personnel) in the past decade’

So whats the true number of immigrants?

1.
For the wrong answer, go to the Daily Mail.

The figures might also reflect the fact that in many countries, including EU ones, the norm is to rent rather than buy housing.

Or it may be that many immigrants are young, and like many native born young, are unable to get a foot on the “housing ladder” because of the absurd cost of even the cheapest homes in some parts of the country.

But you can never stop the Daily Fail twisting whatever information they have in order to satisfy the burning hatred in the hearts of their pursed lipped, tutting readership of vinegary old women and bitter old men.

I always thought someone who was born in one country and moved to make their home in another country *was* an immigrant, even if their name was Boris – isn’t that the definition of an immigrant?

Thanks for exposing the Daily Mail’s story but having read your piece I’m still not clear on what the true figure is. How many immigrants have actually been allocated social housing in the past 10 years if it’s not 470,000 as the Mail claims?

There isn’t really an argument in this piece.

Social housing is “allocated” not “given”.

–This is hair splitting. The two terms are synonyms. “Allocation” sounds more technical and less personal, so people might be less likely to object to the “allocation” of social housing to immigrants, which is presumably why the OP prefers it.

The numbers refer to people born outside the UK rather than immigrants per se.

–Okay, but people born outside the UK are a proxy. What are the true numbers?

People born outside the UK are poorer in general than people born inside the UK.

–Hence more likely to require social housing, consistent with the Daily Mail’s article.

4.
Have you read the Daily Mail article and the comments that are posted?
The DM’s definition of social housing includes houses that are let by private landlords.
As ever, the Daiy Mail knows how to rile their drooling, gagging, xeonophobic readers.

6 The Mail article specifies “council or housing association properties”.

No, I have not read the comments beneath it and have no intention of doing so. I’ve never found the comments section on Daily Mail articles about immigration to be very informative.

Surely the question here is whether it makes sense to provide social housing to immigrants? In my opinion, housing should be provided according to need. It should not make any difference whether a person was born in the UK or overseas (in other words, whether they are an immigrant).

There may be a case for saying British citizens should take priority, but that is only tangentially related to whether someone is an immigrant. Plenty of British citizens are immigrants.

There is a difficulty in trying to deny that immigrants receive social housing, which is that you are tacitly accepting that there would be something wrong with it if they were. Furthermore, you will also be stating something that is untrue. If you and I both apply for a council house and I am a British citizen who came to this country eight years ago while you are a British citizen born here, the fact that I am an immigrant will not, as I understand it, affect my application. And neither should it – it would be a scandal if it did.

But when people try to insist that it doesn’t happen, or attack people for stating that it doesn’t happen, they’re actually reinforcing the idea that it’s somehow shameful or wrong to treat people equally.

7.
As shown by the photo of a house rented at £7,800 per month.
Typical bile from the DM and its commentards.

8 That is a photo illustrating a different story. Yes, they are both on the same web page which is confusing.

Hobson,

Good comment. It’s a puzzle as to why pro-immigration arguments aren’t more coherent. My take is this:

The political establishment wants to have high levels of immigration, for both ideological (diversity, anti-racism, etc) and economic reasons.

Although the establishment understands that immigration ticks two magical boxes, it is also aware that many working and lower middle class types don’t have advanced degrees in economics, and don’t realise that high levels of immigration is both morally good and economically beneficial for society as a whole. It’s like they don’t even know what Pareto efficiency is! If only they read the FT and not the Daily Mail.

The problem with that is that for historical reasons, Daily Mail readers and assorted other reprobates are still allowed a vote, if little representation. So the most judicious course is obviously to avoid bringing it to their attention.

The less they think about it, the less they will misguidedly try to reduce it, the better everyone will be in reality — including the thickos who don’t understand that this is in their best interests.

Okay, fine. So why aren’t the arguments better? Because they don’t care about winning the arguments. From their point of view, Daily Mail readers are xenophobic louts who can’t be reasoned with. Therefore, the goal is to stop having arguments with them. Therefore whatever furthers this end is fair game — including arguments that are mutually contradictory or just hand waving.

9.
Deliberate embedding and typical Daily Mail.

10.
The article highlights an article, from the Daily Mail, that is misleading.

"Okay, fine. So why aren’t the arguments better?
Because they don’t care about winning the arguments.
"
Your call for a pro-immigration argument is misplaced as Owen Tudor has not expressed an opinion either way.

Massive flaw in the Daily Mail’s use of this data (which the article has not noticed):

The data referring to half a million recent migrants in council housing is about PEOPLE, not HOUSEHOLDS.

Unless we assume migrants all live alone, this is *not* the number of houses they occupy. It is also *not* even roughly comparable with waiting lists (a comparison the Mail encourages), which only include the ‘head of household’.

I’d also hazard a guess that quite a lot of these migrants live in council houses where the ‘head of household’ isn’t a migrant.

I don’t dispute that there are downsides to immigration, and that a real ‘open door policy’ (which we haven’t had, by the way) would be pretty catastrophic… but as usual the Mail’s figures are yet again distorted to favour their agenda and cannot be trusted.

14. Man on Clapham Omnibus

10. vimothy

It’s like they don’t even know what Pareto efficiency is!

Maybe the Mail is after Pareto improvement.

Anyway I dont buy the immigration thing myself because what you are tacitly saying is a fixed population cannot organise its resources and wealth to the benifit of all without drawing in members of other communities. Its a limp left postulate that is entirely false and if extrapolated would mean the worlds population would all end up on the Isle of Wight which I suggest isnt a good idea.

I think it far better to understand why immigration is happening and IMO its because of the need for cheaper and cheaper labour so the rich can get richer and richer.

Your call for a pro-immigration argument is misplaced as Owen Tudor has not expressed an opinion either way.

What Owen Tudor wrote doesn’t address the matter of whether large numbers of immigrants are getting social housing or are preventing Britons from accessing social housing.

Instead he quibbles over some of the facts, while leaving the substantive issues off the table. So we are told that:

1, The correct term is “allocated” rather than “given,” seemingly because the optics / connotations are more better.

2, The numbers refer to people born outside the UK rather than immigrants per se, and British people can be born outside the UK, e.g., Boris Johnson.

3, Of course immigrants occupy a lot of social housing. They tend to be poorer on average. (Presumably that’s what lead them to migrate in the first place.)

But you want to either say that the Daily Mail is exaggerating the numbers in order to make this seem like a much bigger problem than it is in reality, because the people who write the Daily Mail are all deranged bigots who hate immigrants. Or you want to say that the numbers are more or less correct, but the reason that the numbers are the way they are is because immigrants are typically poorer than the rest of the population.

Make both at the same time, and it’s a bit like saying, “He was like this when I got here, officer. And anyway, even if he wasn’t, I didn’t kill him. And anyway, even if I did, it was in self-defence.”

Well, which is it? You should pick your strongest story and stick to that.

“Are more better”? Yeesh…

15.
"Instead he quibbles over some of the facts"
Facts that are, of course, not a strong point at the Daily Mail.
See comment #13.

18. John Lloyd

So the solution is just to throw money at immigrants. Balls and co are so discredited with their idea to spend spend spend out of recession, now the plan is to just go on a house building spree to give homes to benefit tourists. Will the TUC never learn their day has gone?

6
“The DM’s definition of social housing includes houses that are let by private landlords”

Your comments are just as disingenuous, if not more, than anything the Mail wrote, rather like the needless hair splitting between “given” and “allocated”.

Fact is that at a time when millions of British people are on social housing lists hundreds of thousand of immigrants are given social housing.

19.
Read comment #13.
Stating that my short posting is more disengenuous than a DM article on social housing, which includes a house that is rented at £7,800 per month, says quite a lot about you.

21. Derek Hattons Tailor

@15 “don’t realise that high levels of immigration is both morally good and economically beneficial for society as a whole”.

Lots of countries (Switzerland, Japan, Sweden) have had highly successful social and economic models with little or no immigration. Europe had a (much) higher share of global GDP in the 1970s, when migration was far lower. In the uk specifically, real wages have barely moved since the 1970s. I’m an accountant rather than an economist, but you don’t need to be either to realise that the larger the labour pool, the lower than wages. If there are any economic benefits they are clearly not widely shared.

It also depends which “society as a whole” you are looking at. If migration is good for the economy of the host country then by definition it is bad for the economy of the home country (e.g Ireland, Southern Europe).

I am sure the Mail and its loyal readers will now attack Kate Allen for being so biased as to look at the actual figures and read the actual truth written in them. After all, they accused Chris Patten and the rest of the BBC Trust for being biased lefties because they criticised John Humphrys and his hit-piece on people on benefits for recycling Mail lies and not backing them with actual facts (presumably because the facts prove the opposite).

19

If you can’t understand that the house that rents at £7,800 a month is not social housing but privately rented to an immigrant on housing benefit then that says a lot about you.

It would seem that you also have difficulty grasping the fact that at a time when millions of British people are on social housing lists hundreds of thousand of immigrants are given social housing.

22

“they accused Chris Patten and the rest of the BBC Trust for being biased lefties”

Simply google “bbc admits bias”

23.
You fail to grasp the fact that the Daily Mail misinterpreted statistics on housing.
Do you think that anyone who was born outside of the UK should not be allowed to rent somewhere to live?

25.

The fact is that it is you misinterpreting the statistics.

As the Mail clearly states, there are 1.8 million British families on social housing waiting lists and 469,843 immigrants have taken social housing housing between 2001 and 2011. These are government statistics.

Where is the Daily Mail misinterpretation?

26.
Daily Mail misinformation is available every day except Sunday when it is replaced by Mail on Sunday misinformation.

27.

That is merely your opinion.

The fact is, as the Mail reported, there are 1.8 million British families on social housing waiting lists and 469,843 immigrants have taken social housing housing between 2001 and 2011.

Just because you may not like these facts it doesn’t mean the Mail is guilty of misinformation.

28.
It is a fact that the Daily Mail twisted housing statistics to blame immigrants.
The Daily Mail doesn’t normally raise concerns about people who live in council, housing association and private landlord properties but, in this case, they have made an exception because it pushes the immigration button.
The Daily Mail doesn’t give a damn about people who are in social housing.

29.

You keep saying the Mail twisted housing statistics, fair enough, now kindly tell me which housing statistics they twisted?

It’s patently true that 1.8 million British families on social housing waiting lists and 469,843 immigrants have taken social housing housing, so how is that twisted.

It would appear that the Mail gives a damn about the 1.8 million British families languishing on social housing queues whilst 469,843 foreign born immigrants are given social housing.

6
“The DM’s definition of social housing includes houses that are let by private landlords”

Even this comment of yours has been proved as twisted, the article clearly stated that an immigrant was benefitting from £7,800 monthly to pay a private landlord yet you twisted it to claim that the Mail was referring to social housing.

Tell me, where on earth is there social housing in the UK that rents at £7,800 monthly?

30. 31.
No. The Daily Mail published the article because it hits the immigration button.
The embedded story about an asylum seeker is there to distort matters even further.

32.

Nothing wrong with hitting the immigration button, immigration control has been lax to say the least since 2001, it’s about time it was hit.

The “embedded” story about the so called “asylum seeker” receiving an astonishing £7800 a month while 1.8 million British families languish on the housing list is a true and untwisted story.

To pay in excess of £90,000 p.a. to house a family is plainly ridiculous.

33.
What is the difference between an asylum seeker and a ‘so-called asylum seeker’?
He’s either an asylum seeker or isn’t an asylum seeker.
Asylum seekers do not qualify for social housing so they are not permitted to place their names on housing lists.
If the asylum seeker is having his rent paid, the money goes to the landlord.
Please take up the matter with the Daily Mail as I’m sure that you’ll prefer their answers. The Daily Mail is far more creative than the average estate agent when it comes to property descriptions – An East London, 1920s, end of terrace, 2 up 2 down, with a crappy dormer bedroom becomes a luxury townhouse at the hands of a DM hack.
In fact, Phil, stick with the "Fail" and don’t visit any other websites.

33.

The difference between an asylum seeker and an “asylum seeker” is that one is genuine and the other is bogus. If he is bogus then he isn’t an asylum seeker, he is an economic opportunist posing as an “asylum seeker”, cashing in to the tune of £7,800 monthly.

I’m quite happy with your answers, we have established that the Mail was correct that 1.8 million British families are on social housing waiting lists and 469,843 immigrants have taken social housing housing and that one immigrant family was receiving an astonishing £7,800 monthly for his house rent.


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