These maps show deprivation in Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and other large English cities

Derelict houses in the Toxteth district of inner city Liverpool. Image: Getty.

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.


Coming soon: CityMetric will relaunch as City Monitor, a new publication dedicated to the future of cities

Coming soon!

Later this month, CityMetric will be relaunching with an entirely new look and identity, as well as an expanded editorial mission. We’ll become City Monitor, a name that reflects both a ramping up of our ambitions as well as our membership in a network of like-minded publications coming soon from New Statesman Media Group. We can’t wait to share the new website with you, but in the meantime, here’s what CityMetric readers should know about what to expect from this exciting transition.  

Regular CityMetric readers may have already noticed a few changes around here since the spring. CityMetric’s beloved founding editor, Jonn Elledge, has moved on to some new adventures, and a new team has formed to take the site into the future. It’s led by yours truly – I’m Sommer Mathis, the editor-in-chief of City Monitor. Hello!

My background includes having served as the founding editor of CityLab, editor-in-chief of Atlas Obscura, and editor-in-chief of DCist, a local news publication in the District of Columbia. I’ve been reporting on and writing about cities in one way or another for the past 15 years. To me, there is no more important story in the world right now than how cities are changing and adapting to an increasingly challenging global landscape. The majority of the world’s population lives in cities, and if we’re ever going to be able to tackle the most pressing issues currently facing our planet – the climate emergency, rising inequality, the Covid-19 pandemic ­­­– cities are going to have to lead the way.

That’s why City Monitor is going to be a global publication dedicated to the future of cities everywhere – not just in the UK (nor for that matter just in the US, where I live). Our mission will be to help our readers, many of whom are in leadership positions around the globe, navigate how cities are changing and discover what’s next in the world of urban policy. We’ll do that through original reporting, expert opinion and most crucially, a data-driven approach that emphasises evidence and rigorous analysis. We want to arm local decision-makers and those they work in concert with – whether that’s elected officials, bureaucratic leaders, policy advocates, neighbourhood activists, academics and researchers, entrepreneurs, or plain-old engaged citizens – with real insights and potential answers to tough problems. Subjects we’ll cover include transportation, infrastructure, housing, urban design, public safety, the environment, the economy, and much more.

The City Monitor team is made up of some of the most experienced urban policy journalists in the world. Our managing editor is Adam Sneed, also a CityLab alum where he served as a senior associate editor. Before that he was a technology reporter at Politico. Allison Arieff is City Monitor’s senior editor. She was previously editorial director of the urban planning and policy think tank SPUR, as well as a contributing columnist for The New York Times. Staff writer Jake Blumgart most recently covered development, housing, and politics for WHYY, the local public radio station in Philadelphia. And our data reporter is Alexandra Kanik, whose previous roles include data reporting for Louisville Public Media in Kentucky and PublicSource in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Our team will continue to grow in the coming weeks, and we’ll also be collaborating closely with our editorial colleagues across New Statesman Media Group. In fact, we’re launching a whole network of new publications this fall, covering topics such as the clean energy transition, foreign direct investment, technology, banks and more. Many of these sectors will frequently overlap with our cities coverage, and a key part of our plan is make the most of the expertise that all of these newsrooms combined will bring to bear on our journalism.

City Monitor will go live later this month. In the meantime, please visit to sign up for our forthcoming email newsletter.

As for CityMetric, some of its archives have already been moved over to the new website, and the rest will follow not long after. If you’re looking for a favourite piece from CityMetric’s past, for a time you’ll still be able to find it here, but before long the whole archive will move over to City Monitor.

On behalf of the City Monitor team, I’m thrilled to invite you to come along for the ride at our forthcoming digs. You can already follow City Monitor on LinkedIn, and on Twitter, sign up or keep following our existing account, which will switch over to our new name shortly. If you’re interested in learning more about the potential for a commercial partnership with City Monitor, please get in touch with our director of partnerships, Joe Maughan.

I want to thank and congratulate Jonn Elledge on a brilliant run. Everything we do from here on out will be building on the legacy of his work, and the community that he built here at CityMetric. Cheers, Jonn!

In the meantime, stay tuned, and thank you from all of us for being a loyal CityMetric reader. We couldn’t have done any of this without you.

Sommer Mathis is editor-in-chief of City Monitor.