“As graduates move to London, they’re leaving Middlesbrough and Bradford behind”

To London! Image: Getty.

The latest instalment of our weekly series, in which we use the Centre for Cities’ data tools to crunch some of the numbers on Britain’s cities. 

Hell of a graph here, which tells us a lot about internal migration in Britain. It takes some unpacking though so bear with me:

The different bars represent four different groups of UK cities arranged by size (London, as ever, is in a class of its own). The colours are different levels of qualification, and where they sit on the bar shows inward or outward migration: bits above the line mean people moving in, bits below mean people moving out.

What the graph shows is that London is weird. The three other groups of cities all receive inward migration from the rest of the country: more people move in than move out. (This is not necessarily true of every individual city, of course, but is true of the groups as a whole.)

London, though, is the other way around: the city keeps growing because of international arrivals. Bits are more likely to leave than to arrive. 

The capital is weird in a different way too – because while the British people as a whole are on balance more likely to leave, graduates are flocking to London. Other cities see net outflows of graduates – as students leave universities, or older people move in search of work. London, though, is clearly a big destination – the big destination – for those people. 

This matters. Because, in the high value globalised knowledge economy which politicians like to bang on about, attracting and retaining graduates is a pretty big deal. At the moment, London is sucking up all that talent: the capital accounts for 19 per cent of all jobs, but 22 per cent of new graduates, and 38 per cent of those with a good degree from a Russell Group University.

One side effect of this, one suspects, is that house prices go up, and everyone else becomes more likely to leave.

All of this comes from the latest Centre for Cities report, the Great British Brain Drain. Here's another graph, which drills down into figures for individual cities:

Click to expand.

Almost every city, in fact, is losing graduates. In many cases, one suspects, because they've finished their degrees and move for work. That’s why cities with two or more universities – from Birmingham and Sheffield to Oxford and Cambridge – tend to be losing the most 

A handful of cities, though, did see a net increase in graduates in 2010-11. They include some new towns – Milton Keynes, Warrington, Swindon – which tend to combine good jobs, affordable housing, and not having a university for people to graduate from. Bournemouth and Worthing saw a net influx too, perhaps representing the appeal of retiring to the seaside.

These ones show movement by age. Spot the odd one out:

Click to expand.

People hit 30 and leave London. Can’t imagine why.

One last graphic: this one's an interactive map. It shows the "graduate gain" each city had in 2014 – that is, the total number of graduates who arrived within six months of completing their studies. It's not per capita, so big cities tend to show the biggest gain:

But nonetheless, the economic subtext yells at you. Most southern cities show net gains, even if they're tiny (though one suspects this is more likely to reflect people returning home from university than people moving to, say, Ipswich for work). But while the big northern cities are doing okay, graduates are leaving to northern towns. As graduates move en masse to London, they're abandoning Middlesbrough and Bradford.

The Centre has produced a whole new interactive dataset, if you fancy exploring this topic more. You can play with it here.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @jonnelledge.

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Covid-19 is highlighting cities' unequal access to green space

In the UK, Londoners are most likely to rely on their local park for green space, and have the best access to parks. (Leon Neal/Getty Images)

As coronavirus lockdowns ease, people are flooding back to parks – but not everyone has easy access to green space in their city.

Statistics from Google show that park attendance in countries across the globe has shot up as people have been allowed to move around their cities again.

This is especially true in urban areas, where densely populated neighbourhoods limit the size of private green space – meaning residents have to go to the park to get in touch with nature. Readers from England can use our interactive tool below to find out how much green space people have access to in their area, and how it compares to the rest of the country.


Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement Monday that people are allowed to mingle in parks and gardens with groups of up to six people was partially following what people were doing already.

Data from mobile phones show people have been returning to parks across the UK, and also across Europe, as weather improves and lockdown eases.

People have been returning to parks across the world

Stay-at-home requirements were eased in Italy on 4 May, which led to a flood of people returning to parks.

France eased restrictions on 1 May, and the UK eased up slightly on 13 May, allowing people to sit down in public places so long as they remain socially distanced.

Other countries have seen park attendance rise without major easing of lockdown – including Canada, Spain, and the US (although states there have individual rules and some have eased restrictions).

In some countries, people never really stopped going to parks.

Authorities in the Netherlands and Germany were not as strict as other countries about their citizens visiting local parks during lockdown, while Sweden has famously been avoiding placing many restrictions on people’s daily lives.

There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that access to green space has major benefits for public health.

A recent study by researchers at the University of Exeter found that spending time in the garden is linked to similar benefits for health and wellbeing as living in wealthy areas.

People with access to a private garden also had higher psychological wellbeing, and those with an outdoor space such as a yard were more likely to meet physical activity guidelines than those without access to outdoor space. 

Separate UK research has found that living with a regular view of a green space provides health benefits worth £300 per person per year.

Access is not shared equally, however, which has important implications for equality under lockdown, and the spread of disease.

Statistics from the UK show that one in eight households has no garden, making access to parks more important.

There is a geographic inequality here. Londoners, who have the least access to private gardens, are most likely to rely on their local park for green space, and have the best access to parks. 

However the high population in the capital means that on the whole, green space per person is lower – an issue for people living in densely populated cities everywhere.

There is also an occupational inequality.

Those on low pay – including in what are statistically classed as “semi-skilled” and “unskilled” manual occupations, casual workers and those who are unemployed – are almost three times as likely as those in managerial, administrative, professional occupations to be without a garden, meaning they rely more heavily on their local park.

Britain’s parks and fields are also at significant risk of development, according to new research by the Fields in Trust charity, which shows the number of people living further than a 10-minute walk from a public park rising by 5% over the next five years. That loss of green spaces is likely to impact disadvantaged communities the most, the researchers say.

This is borne out by looking at the parts of the country that have private gardens.

The least deprived areas have the largest gardens

Though the relationship is not crystal clear, it shows at the top end: Those living in the least deprived areas have the largest private green space.

Although the risk of catching coronavirus is lower outdoors, spending time in parks among other people is undoubtedly more risky when it comes to transmitting or catching the virus than spending time in your own outdoor space. 

Access to green space is therefore another example – along with the ability to work from home and death rates – of how the burden of the pandemic has not been equally shouldered by all.

Michael Goodier is a data reporter at New Statesman Media Group, and Josh Rayman is a graphics and data visualisation developer at New Statesman Media Group.