The accumulation of disadvantage across the life course

Examining racism, social and economic disadvantage & activism before and during the COVID-19 pandemic in older ethnic minority adults.

Researchers: Dr Dharmi Kapadia, Jenny Hewitt, Dr Laia Bécares, Professor James Nazroo

Ethnic minority older people in the UK are one of the most disadvantaged groups in terms of their health, economic security and housing quality. The racism that ethnic minority older people have faced over the life course is a fundamental reason why disadvantages are evident for this group. In the UK, many older ethnic minority people migrated from their ‘home’ countries after the Second World War to fill a labour shortage in the UK economy. The process of migration to the UK and the ensuing racial discrimination faced by many ethnic minority migrants are critical biographical junctures that have shaped their lives in terms of job opportunities, access to good housing, provision of timely healthcare, as well as affecting the opportunities and experiences of their families.

The COVID-19 global pandemic has thrown a further spotlight on the inequalities facing ethnic minority people. What has been least prominent in the public and academic debates around the increased risk for ethnic minority people is how the persistence and accumulation of disadvantages has led to the exacerbation of poor health, living conditions and economic insecurity. These structural inequalities, and how state institutions enable these disadvantages to occur and persist are critical for understanding how and why discrimination has created lower standards of living for ethnic minority older people in the UK.

This project uncovers the ways in which ethnic minority older people have encountered, suffered from and resisted racism, and how these experiences of racism have affected their identities, life chances and family members. In addition, the project examines whether the pandemic has changed the nature of racial discrimination faced by ethnic minority older people and explore the impact of the pandemic on their lives.


Briefing: Ethnic minority older people, histories of structural racism and the Covid-19 pandemic

Our briefing paper shows how pre-existing inequalities led to older people from ethnic minorities at high risk suffering particularly harshly from the virus and restrictions during and after lockdown. Produced with the Runnymede Trust.

Event recordings