White working-class neighbourhoods: common themes and policy suggestions

Steven Garner

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


What does it mean to be white and working class in modern Britain?
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s studies of traditionally white estates in Bradford, London, Coventry and Birmingham are part of a growing body of research into ‘white identities’.

This paper:
• identifies common findings from JRF research into traditionally white estates, in the context of other similar work;
• suggests how issues of white identity can be better understood and makes recommendations for policy and practice.

Key points:
• Profound economic and social change has increased isolation and fear in traditionally white estates. Residents often claim that things were better in the past.
• ‘Estatism’ refers to specific social dynamics associated with council estates and prejudice towards residents based on where they live. This can result in lowered self-esteem and reluctance to participate in community campaigns.
• People on traditionally white estates often feel they are not listened to by outside agencies. Consultations can raise hopes but ultimately reinforce disengagement. Initiatives to ensure equality have become associated with political correctness (‘PC’).
• White working-class people feel they are bound by values of hard work, reciprocity and support. They are frustrated by the closure and lack of access to community facilities. The social class system simultaneously disadvantages the working class while giving advantage to other classes.
• There is a strong desire for allocation of resources to be fair, with a widespread perception that minorities are given preference. Blaming incomers for decline is common, with the target of blame differing between sites. Participants did not want to be considered racist and felt that labelling ideas as racist prevents discussion. Similarly, the term ‘PC’ can also be used to shut down debate.
• Recommendations include community-twinning, new ways of accessing local authorities, involvement from the private sector in disadvantaged areas and local panels to define and develop the ‘Big Society’. Initiatives aimed solely at white working-class people are unlikely to be successful.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationYork
PublisherJoseph Rowntree Foundation
Number of pages21
ISBN (Print)978-185935889-4
Publication statusPublished - 28 Nov 2011

Publication series

NameRound ups
PublisherJoseph Rowntree Foundation


  • white
  • whiteness
  • community
  • neighbourhood
  • middle class
  • working class


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