Britain's ethnic minorities are better educated than their white peers but are paid less and are the first to be sacked in a recession, according to a report from the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics.
But within ethnic minorities there is a polarisation of achievement. Black African, Indian and Chinese groups contain a higher proportion of graduates than do British-born whites.
About a quarter of the Chinese population in Britain have a degree, compared with 15 per cent of whites.
But West Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities contain fewer graduates - about 40 per cent of Bangladeshis have no formal qualifications, compared with 16 per cent of British-born whites.
The West Indian community is the only ethnic group where women do better than men. "The proportion of female West Indian women with a degree is close to the national average, and the share of West Indian women with no qualifications is below the national average," says the report, The State of Working Britain .
It adds: "In contrast, the share of women with no qualifications in the Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities is more than twice the national average."
The report warns that the educational advance of certain ethnic groups may be slowing down.
"With the exception of Indians, the graduate share in the 20 to 29 age group is smaller than the graduate share in the 30 to 39 age groups," it says.
And it warns that the gains made by the West Indian community over time seem to have stagnated among young men in their 20s - but not among young women.
Jonathan Wadsworth, author of the chapter on labour market performance and race, says that differences in labour market performance between whites and ethnic minorities and between different ethnic minorities cannot be explained away by differences in educational achievement or geographical dispersal. "There is still a substantial residue that needs to be explained," he concludes.
Some 4 million people, 7 per cent of the population, consider themselves to belong to ethnic minorities. The largest ethnic group comprises those of Indian origin, followed by Pakistani, Black African and West Indian.
About half of ethnic minority individuals were born in Britain. They are better educated than recent immigrants.