One third of Muslim households were officially overcrowded in 2001, the highest for a faith group. The average Muslim household size was 3.8 persons, the largest.
Although Muslims made up 2.8% of the population in 2001, ‘Muslim households’ defined by the Census made up a significantly lower 1.9% of all British households. This figure points to a social group with migration within the last 50 years occupying a major segment, and to a general position of overcrowding and associated social disadvantage - areas that can be related but are separate. A figure below 2% can also easily mask the great diversity among Britain’s Muslims, as the table showing the birth place of Muslims points towards. Indeed London, where some two in five of Britain’s Muslims reside, has one of the most diverse Muslim populations in the world. Diversity in this sense is not confined to language (of which over 50 native languages are estimated) and ethnic background, but also to the diversity in sectarian religious belonging and in religious customs or practice.
The 2001 census has been based on both ethnicity and religion therefore we can see a clear comparative picture of housing tenure patterns amongst Muslims in Great Britain.
The census shows a significant contrast between Muslims and other religions in that they are the least likely to own their own home and the most likely to rent or live rent free. However when the Muslim picture is looked at in isolation the picture shows that just over half of Muslims own their own home compared to 28% social renting.
Other areas where Muslims show significant higher levels compared to other religions or no religion is that they are the most likely to experience overcrowding, have the highest average of the number of people living in a household and are the most likely to have 2 or more dependent children. In terms of poor housing Muslims are more likely to suffer from problems such as lack of central heating.
Overcrowding can be a feature of cultural household arrangements and a developing post-migration pattern, both of which would apply to the largest sections on British Muslims who are of Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Indian descent. Although families of different religions but of the same ethnicity were also found to have larger than average household sizes, the Muslim Bangladeshi and Muslim Pakistani household sizes were larger still. One key difference is likely to be higher number of dependent children, compared to Sikhs and Hindus.
There are social challenges that arise here. The low income levels and high number of dependent children means that general well being and life quality is more greatly affected in the negative, as the limited household income struggles to meet the cost of raising a family. 63% of all Muslim households have some dependent children and just over half of this, or 33% of all Muslim households, show a worrying combination of dependent children and no working adults. A quarter of all Muslim households for example have 3 or more dependent children (against a national average of 5.3%) and it stands to reason that a lack of space in the home can also impact upon school attainment particularly at an early stage of educational development.