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Professor Saffron Karlsen - University of Bristol. Bristol, , GB

Professor Saffron Karlsen Professor Saffron Karlsen

Associate Professor in Sociology | University of Bristol


Investigating ethnicity and ethic identities to overcome discrimination

Areas of Expertise (7)




Ethnic Backgrounds





Professor Saffron Karlsen is a Senior Lecturer in Social Research and a member of the Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship. Her research is concerned with how people identify and define their own ethnicity, drawing on their family background, community belonging, and experience of life, and the challenges that they face. She has examined ethnic discrimination, ethnic inequalities in health, education and society, social mobility, attitudes towards Female Genital Mutilation, the use of ethnicity data to make policy decisions, and the notion of being British.

Most recently Professor Karlsen has been tracking the social impact of the COVID-19 virus on ethnic groups in terms of health provision and equalities of access to support. She is part of an International Network on Female Genital Cutting and a member of the advisory board of a project funded by the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare to explore approaches to FGM-safeguarding. She is leading on the creation of a Bristol Race Equality Network, co-partnered with Bristol City Council and Black South West Network. Professor Karlsen also sits on the ONS Inclusive Data Taskforce.






Bristol Research: Digital Fireside Talks #10: Why are BAME people at higher risk from COVID-19? Scope with Waqar Rizvi | UN calls for slavery reparations | Episode 263 | Indus News



Education (3)

University College London: Ph.D., Sociology 2006

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine: M.Sc., Medical Demography 1996

London School of Economics: B.Sc., Economic History with Population Studies 1995

Media Appearances (5)

Taking control: how the community most at risk from coronavirus have been left to take their own steps to stay safe

ITV  online


We now know that people from a black, Asian or minority ethnic background are more likely to die from coronavirus than all other sections of society. Top of that list are those with Bangladeshi heritage.

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How the economics of inequality is holding back the UK

The Telegraph  online


The dismal science has shown its human side in recent weeks. While 2020 could eventually be seen as a year of tectonic social change, it could also lead to gradual but even more important shifts for economies....

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'Persistent racism' still mars job prospects for BAME Britons

The Guardian  online


“These findings would appear in keeping with work exposing the ethnic penalty which continues to affect the access of minority groups to employment and the ways in which persistent racism limits access to positive socioeconomic outcomes, including social mobility,” Karlsen said.

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Government accused of ‘colour blind approach’ after review of BAME virus deaths

Yahoo! News  online


Dr Saffron Karlsen, senior lecturer in social research at the University of Bristol, said: “The reasons for these poor living conditions, higher-risk jobs and co-morbidities are not explained.

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UK Somalis 'racially profiled' over FGM

BBC News  online


Dr Saffron Karlsen said increasingly the evidence suggested it was not as a big a problem as it was assumed to be. She said: "We want to see an end to FGM but the way the current system is set up appears to penalise and stigmatise innocent families, and families where's there's no evidence to suggest...that their children are going to be exposed to FGM."

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Articles (5)

‘Putting salt on the wound’: a qualitative study of the impact of FGM-safeguarding in healthcare settings on people with a British Somali heritage living in Bristol, UK

BMJ Open

2020 This research documents the experiences of people with Somali heritage with female genital mutilation (FGM)-safeguarding services in healthcare and whether such services are considered appropriate by the people who encounter them.

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Ethnic, Religious and Gender Differences in Intragenerational Economic Mobility in England and Wales


2020 This study uses data from consecutive England and Wales censuses to examine the intragenerational economic mobility of individuals with different ethnicities, religions and genders between 1971 and 2011, over time and across cohorts. The findings suggest more downward and less upward mobility among Black Caribbean, Indian Sikh and Muslim people with Bangladeshi, Indian and Pakistani ethnicities, relative to white British groups, and more positive relative progress among Indian Hindu people, but also some variation in the experiences of social mobility between individuals even in the same ethnic groups.

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Ethnicity and Covid-19: Standing on the shoulders of eugenics?


2020 The current pandemic does not affect all ethnic groups equally. Explanations offered for these inequalities have relied on assumptions about genetic predispositions and peculiar ‘cultural’ behaviours. But, beyond a very small number of health conditions, there is no evidence that such genetic or cultural differences explain ethnic inequalities in Covid-19 or any other health conditions.

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Achieving SDG 10: A Global Review of Public Service Inclusion Strategies for Ethnic and Religious Minorities


2020 Social inequalities are intensifying globally and widening divisions are linked to civil unrest. Disadvantaged ethnic and religious groups experience poor access to, representation in and outcomes from public services such as healthcare and education. As mechanisms for social participation and citizenship, public services are key to inclusive and sustainable societies.

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Affirmative action, minorities, and public services in India: Charting a future research and practice agenda

Indian Journal of Medical Ethics

2019 The National Health Policy in India mentions equity as a key policy principle and emphasises the role of affirmative action in achieving health equity for a range of excluded groups. We conducted a scoping review of literature and three multi-stakeholder workshops to better understand the available evidence on the impact of affirmative action policies in enhancing the inclusion of ethnic and religious minorities in health, education and governance in India.

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