This is the latest in a series of blogs exploring the 2015 English Indices of Deprivation. This time we’re focusing on the rural-urban divide in the Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) and on the performance of England’s largest cities.
Before we get to the maps, though (yes, there are maps), some explanatory notes.
First, most people in England live in urban areas, and the areas we analyse (Lower Super Output Areas, or LSOAs) are designed to be as consistent as possible in terms of number of people that live within their boundaries. So by definition, most of the areas we focus on are urban. (This does not imply that England is mostly urban and built-up: it is not.)
Second, urban areas tend to rank as more deprived than rural ones. It is possible to calculate this by ordering LSOAs by most to least deprived, and then dividing them into ten equal groups (deciles). Doing so reveals that over a third of urban LSOAs are among England’s 30 per cent most deprived, while only 7 per cent of rural LSOAs are.
This trend is clearly visible here:
Above: Number of Lower Super Output Areas by rural/urban classification. Below: Proportion of each classification in each decile of multiple deprivation. Source: DCLG, NLP analysis.
The fact that rural areas rank as less deprived does not mean that they are also wealthier. The Index is designed using indicators that only measure individuals’ deprivation (that is, what they lack), not their affluence (how much money they have). Therefore, it does not rank places from poorest to richest, but rather from highest concentration of deprived people to lowest.
Interestingly, the distribution of LSOAs across the deciles of deprivation is broadly consistent in urban areas – but it is visibly skewed in rural areas. This clearly shows that relatively wealthier city councils must bear a heavier burden in overcoming deprivation than their rural counterparts.
So what does this mean for the core cities?
England’s “core cities” are the eight largest cities outside London: Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne, Nottingham and Sheffield. To show how deprivation in these cities changed between 2010 and 2015, we have used the same methodology that we had already used in this post, and then charted it and mapped it.
Manchester, Liverpool, Nottingham and Birmingham are all among the 20 most deprived local authorities in England – but since 2010 their relative performance since 2010 has varied considerably. As shown below, Liverpool and Newcastle upon Tyne have seen over 60 per cent of their LSOAs experience a positive shift in the Index (that is, become relatively less deprived). Conversely, the shift in Nottingham and Bristol has been mostly negative.
The direction of shift in LSOAs’ deprivation score in the Core Cities. Source: DCLG, NLP analysis.
In spatial terms, one common trend is higher levels of deprivation immediately surrounding city centres (you can see this on the left hand maps in the images below). Since 2010, though, no clear spatial pattern has emerged in the way deprivation has shifted. (Note: For clarity and consistency, we’ve focused solely on each Core City’s main local authority, and not on the surrounding authorities that are part of the same urban area.)
Without further ado, here are the maps
Index of Multiple Deprivation 2015 and LSOAs’ relative shift in Birmingham. Source: DCLG, NLP analysis.
Index of Multiple Deprivation 2015 and LSOAs’ relative shift in Bristol. Source: DCLG, NLP analysis.
Index of Multiple Deprivation 2015 and LSOAs’ relative shift in Leeds. Source: DCLG, NLP analysis.
Index of Multiple Deprivation 2015 and LSOAs’ relative shift in Liverpool. Source: DCLG, NLP analysis.
Index of Multiple Deprivation 2015 and LSOAs’ relative shift in Manchester. Source: DCLG, NLP analysis.
Index of Multiple Deprivation 2015 and LSOAs’ relative shift in Newcastle upon Tyne. Source: DCLG, NLP analysis.
Index of Multiple Deprivation 2015 and LSOAs’ relative shift in Nottingham. Source: DCLG, NLP analysis.
Index of Multiple Deprivation 2015 and LSOAs’ relative shift in Sheffield. Source: DCLG, NLP analysis.
The IMD is a useful geographical tool – but it would be unwise to use it to assess the actual improvement or deterioration in life standards at individual or household level.
Think of the complexity in this way. A negative shift does not imply that an area has not improved its deprivation score: it could be that it has done so at a slower pace than the English average. On the other hand, there is no indication that an area is becoming less deprived because people are actually better off than they were. It may be because the poorest households are being pushed out.
Nonetheless, the Index is one of the many tools (like the recently updated Travel to Work Areas) that can help us explore the social and economic dynamics of cities. Devolving decision-making will bring no progress unless we understand the places we want to devolve to.
Francesco Mellino is a research consultant at Nathanial Lichfield & Partners.
This article was originally posted on the planning consultancy's blog.