Why Has London Lost so Many Pubs?

Demographic compositional change may have contributed to the loss of pubs in London; change in percentage Muslim strongly predicts change in the number of pubs across Boroughs

Update: further analyses are available here.

Update 2: further analyses available here do not support the hypothesis.

On the 19th of April, the Mayor of London’s office made a press release titled, ‘Shocking data reveals number of pubs in London fell by 25% since 2001’. In other words, despite the fact that the population of London has increased by 1.7 million (24%) over the last 15 years, the number of pubs has fallen by a quarter.

The press release notes that:

The Mayor Sadiq Khan has pledged to help halt the decline in the number of pubs in London

And that:

A recent survey of international visitors to London revealed 54 per cent visited a pub during their stay in the capital, underlining their great cultural importance to the city and their deep connection with English culture

So far as possible causes are concerned, the press release mentions the following:

business rates, conflicts with residents and developers and the relaxation of permitted development rights in 2015

While each of these has probably contributed, an additional factor is reduced demand for pubs caused by demographic compositional change: specifically, the rise in the share of London’s population from Sikh, Hindu and Muslim backgrounds. For example, between 2001 and 2011, the White British share of London’s population decreased from 60% to 45%, while the Asian British share increased from 13% to 18.5%.

To investigate this possibility, I obtained data on the religious composition of London Boroughs for 2001 and 2015 from the London Datastore, as well as data on change in the number of pubs from the IDBR.

The table below shows the correlations between percentage change in the number of pubs and changes in the percentages of four major religious groups: Jews, Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims.

The correlation between percentage change in number of pubs and change in Muslim population is strong and statistically significant. A scatterplot of the relationship is shown below. The other three correlations are smaller in magnitude and non-significant.

The Borough of Redbridge appears to be something of an outlier. (I’m not sure why; if anyone has good idea, let me know.) The correlation excluding Redbridge is considerably higher, namely r = .67 (p < 0.001). A scatterplot of that relationship is shown below.

In summary, a number of factors have probably contributed to the unprecedented loss of pubs in Britain’s capital city. One such factor (not mentioned in the Mayor of London’s press release) is reduced demand for pubs caused by demographic compositional change.