Scottish Longitudinal Study
Development & Support Unit

Completed Projects

Project Title:

Estimating migration rates in Scotland by ethnic group

Project Number:



Helen Brown (University of Edinburgh)
Narinder Bansal (University of Edinburgh)
Raj Bhopal (University of Edinburgh)

Start Date:

Approved on 13-10-2009


Ethnic variation is striking in health status and disease patterns, health outcomes, and utilisation of health services in the UK and overseas. Quantifying and explaining this variation is essential to identify the health needs of the population and assess the extent to which health care is delivered in a fair and equitable manner.

In Scotland, the urgent need for data on the health of minority ethnic groups is driven by both policy and legislation which itself is responding to rapidly increasing ethnic diversity. Several reports emphasise the need to reduce ethnic health inequalities in health, and NHS policy now requires the NHS to demonstrate that it is promoting racial equality and addressing ethnic inequalities. This mandate is profoundly undermined by the lack of a sound evidence base to underpin policy development, service planning, delivery of health services and research.

There is a pressing need for research to provide data regarding ethnicity and health in Scotland both to compare and contrast with findings elsewhere and to guide the NHS. Scotland’s renowned health databases are, as yet, unable to meet the challenges posed by its growing ethnic diversity. The main project, of which this SLS project will be part, aims to link routine health information to self-assigned ethnicity from the 2001 census. Although the methods that underpin the proposed project have been developed independently in a pilot study (Fischbacher et al. 2007), this general approach has been used successfully before, notably by Blakely and colleagues (2006) in New Zealand who have linked mortality and census data retrospectively. The proposed study seeks to capitalise on the potential of such methodology still further by linking census data to Scotland’s health databases, a valuable set of resources that will facilitate the study of a range of indicators of health and healthcare.

The main CSO funded project aims to investigate relationships between health and ethnicity using census data linked to healthcare data. We expect many healthcare measures to be biased due to different rates of migration in and out of Scotland between ethnic groups. However, no data source in Scotland has reliable information on migration rates by ethnic groups. As the SLS links the 1991 and 2001 census data, and has a relatively large sample, only the SLS provides an opportunity to estimate rates of migration over a 10 year period by ethnic group (even though migration data in the SLS are not perfect, and the linkage rates for ethnic groups are worse than average, the results will at least give an indication of migration rates). The aim of this project is to analyse differences in immigration and emigration rates between ethnic groups, and to use the results to adjust analysis and aid interpretation of results of the main study.


Fischbacher CM, Bhopal R, Povey C, Steiner M, Chalmers J, Mueller G, Jamieson J and Knowles D (2007) Record linked retrospective cohort study of 4.6 million people exploring ethnic variations in disease: myocardial infarction in South Asians. BMC Public Health 2007, 7: 142

Blakely T, Fawcett J, Hunt D and Wilson N (2006) What is the contribution of smoking and socioeconomic position to ethnic inequalities in mortality in New Zealand? The Lancet 368: 44-52

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