In a UK panel show, Question Time, a politician says:

However, if you have a country in which the population goes up as a direct result of immigration, what you find is not a shortage of green fields [...] you find a shortage of primary school place, you find a shortage of GP surgeries [...] you find congestion [...] What you find is [...] the general quality of life for the mass of population has gone down.

He goes on to specify immigration in the UK since 1990 as an example.

However, quality of life rankings suggest Britain doesn't have a serious problem with quality of life.

Is there any evidence to support the claim that countries with population growth due to immigration suffer from lowered quality of life standards (e.g. the Human Development Index).

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    It seems like it would be hard to separate correlation and causation for something like this. Many other things have changed in the UK in the past 25 years, for instance.
    – Is Begot
    Dec 12, 2014 at 19:14
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    Immigrants are largely responsible for delicious Indian food, which might be a contributor to British obesity :-) Dec 12, 2014 at 20:04
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    the pilgrims to America, they brought the measles to the natives. Dec 12, 2014 at 23:12
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    @DVK The question isn't asking to prove causation (between immigration and lowered quality of life), it's only asking for any evidence of correlation (i.e. whether they've ever both happened at the same time). I think that people do study (i.e. measure) both, e.g. the OP suggested that we look at HDI as a proxy measure for "quality of life". Similarly people might measure the few "quality of life" indicators which Farage mentioned in the claim, e.g. number of schools per person, number of doctors, and how crowded the roads are.
    – ChrisW
    Dec 13, 2014 at 6:44
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    Number of schools and doctors per person is a poor measure of quality of life when there is a time factor is involved. Improvements in technology means that these you might need less teacher or doctors to provide the same level of education/health service.
    – Lie Ryan
    Dec 13, 2014 at 10:14

2 Answers 2


The statement provides only two reasonable measure of 'quality of life' - availability of primary school places, and number of doctors per person.

The percentage of children in primary school has remained constant from 1990 to now, since attendance at primary schools is compulsory, and local authorities are mandated to provide them. The number of children not in primary school is limited to those who are illegally prevented from attending by their parents, and the very few who are actually in transition between schools.

The number of physicians per thousand persons in the UK was 1.6 in 1990. In 2014 it was 2.8, an increase of 75%.

Conclusion: The statement is entirely false according to any measurable quantity.

  • I expect it's not that simple. If you'll excuse a Daily Mail quote, Five HUNDRED GP surgeries have closed in just five years as number of patients needing their services has increased suggests that the number of surgeries is decreasing, as claimed. It's facile to blame that on immigration, but when there's a perception of shortage, etc.
    – ChrisW
    Dec 13, 2014 at 20:36
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    I'll excuse a Daily Mail quote if you will excuse me saying "The Daily Mail is a hack-rag that wouldn't know a fact if it bit it on the arm." Seriously, since the number of doctors is increasing, then any shortage of GPs must be due to something other than immigration. Dec 13, 2014 at 21:31
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    One thing here: The number of surgeries closing does not necessarily correlate with lowered availability of care. In the US smaller practices have been on a slow decline for years in favor of practices with many doctors. It's just an economy of scale thing - 10 docs sharing office staff is less total overhead per doc than if they each have their own staff. Dec 13, 2014 at 23:14
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    I think you have successfully shown that in the UK and by these two measures, his early statement is false. It may still be the case that his later vague statement about Quality of Life is correct, and it may be the case that there is still a correlation of these factors across all countries. (I see this as more of a problem with the question than your answer, though.)
    – Oddthinking
    Dec 13, 2014 at 23:42
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    @ChrisW - actually, I think the best we can say is that 'these numbers tell us not a blessed thing'. Because they don't give anything resembling a real clue as to whether the situation on the ground is getting better or worse. Dec 14, 2014 at 1:53

I think for the purpose of this question, a country with extremely high immigration rates compared to the UK would be better for illustrating the effects of immigration.

In 1990, Singapore had 10% of its population as immigrants who did not possess permanent resident status or above. In 2012, this has risen to around 30%. Compared to the UK (at 13%), Singapore has had a far greater amount of immigration.

In the meantime, Singapore's HDI has risen from 0.75 to 0.9. Other metrices show more or less the same trend of a vastly improving quality of life, which was strongly correlated with the increase in immigrant number.

Interestingly, there has been increased numbers of people campaigning to restrict immigration in Singapore in recent years, just like the UK. I cannot help but be reminded of #firstworldproblems.

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    It's an interesting comparison; the main issue I see with it is that you are talking about correlation, not causation. How do we know the better quality of life did not cause a surge in immigration?
    – P_S
    Dec 14, 2014 at 9:25
  • As already stated in the comments, we cannot easily separate correlation and causation, especially since migrants are strongly attracted to highly developed countries. However, it can be seen that even if migrants do cause a decrease in quality of life, their effect must be rather minimal in comparison, given the large numbers of migrants in Singapore.
    – March Ho
    Dec 14, 2014 at 9:42
  • Another question is, what kind of immigration happens in Singapour? There's major difference in the kinds of immigrants allowed into UK (mostly Muslims from poor countries, many poorly educated), USA (mostly Latinos from poor countries, many poorly educated), and Canada (or for that matter, ironically, Mexico) where only those who are more educated and likely to contribute to economy are allowed in.
    – user5341
    Dec 15, 2014 at 20:42
  • At the moment, a majority of the immigrants are relatively unskilled labourers from India/Bangladesh and China who work manual jobs (eg construction), so the issue is not unlike that in the UK.
    – March Ho
    Dec 16, 2014 at 7:48
  • I'm not aware of evidence from the claim that immigrants to the UK are "mostly Muslims from poor countries, many poorly educated". I especially doubt whether it's true for recent (e.g. "since 1990") immigration.
    – ChrisW
    Dec 17, 2014 at 10:39

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