This is the third of a series of blogs that explores the 2015 English Indices of Deprivation. This post focuses on the rural-urban divide in the Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) and on the performance of England’s eight Core Cities, the largest cities outside London.
First, most people in England live in urban areas and the areas we analyse (Lower Super Output Areas, LSOAs) are designed to be as consistent as possible in terms of number of people that live within their boundaries. Consequently, most of the areas we focus on are urban (which 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 dividing them into ten equal groups (deciles). Over a third of urban LSOAs are among England’s 30% most deprived, while only 7% of rural LSOAs are. This is clearly visible in Figure 1 below.
Figure 1: Number of Lower Super Output Areas by rural/urban classification and proportion 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, not their affluence. 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.
Identified by the Coalition Government in 2011, Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne, Nottingham and Sheffield are England’s Core Cities. In case you were wondering how deprivation in these cities has 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 amongst the 20 most deprived local authorities in England, but their relative performance since 2010 has varied considerably. As shown in Figure 2, Liverpool and Newcastle upon Tyne have seen over 60% of their LSOAs experience a positive shift in the Index. Conversely, the shift in Nottingham and Bristol has been mostly negative.
Figure 2: Direction of shift in LSOAs’ deprivation score in Core Cities (Source: DCLG, NLP analysis)
In spatial terms, higher levels of deprivation immediately surrounding city centres are a common trend across Core Cities (see the maps on the right in Figures 3 to 10), but no clear spatial pattern in the shift since 2010 emerges from the analysis.
Figure 3: Index of Multiple Deprivation 2015 and LSOAs relative shift in Birmingham (Source: DCLG, NLP analysis)
Figure 4: Index of Multiple Deprivation 2015 and LSOAs relative shift in Bristol (Source: DCLG, NLP analysis)
Figure 5: Index of Multiple Deprivation 2015 and LSOAs relative shift in Leeds (Source: DCLG, NLP analysis)
Figure 6: Index of Multiple Deprivation 2015 and LSOAs relative shift in Liverpool (Source: DCLG, NLP analysis)
Figure 7: Index of Multiple Deprivation 2015 and LSOAs relative shift in Manchester (Source: DCLG, NLP analysis)
Figure 8: Index of Multiple Deprivation 2015 and LSOAs relative shift in Newcastle upon Tyne (Source: DCLG, NLP analysis)
Figure 9: Index of Multiple Deprivation 2015 and LSOAs relative shift in Nottingham (Source: DCLG, NLP analysis)
Figure 10: Index of Multiple Deprivation 2015 and LSOAs relative shift in Sheffield (Source: DCLG, NLP analysis)
While it is a useful geographical tool, it would be unwise to use the IMD to assess the actual improvement or deterioration in life standards at individual or household level. Think of the complexity in this way: on the one hand, a negative shift does not imply that an area has not improved its deprivation score, but 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, mindful that devolving or centralising decision-making brings no progress if our knowledge and understanding of the places we want to improve does not improve as well.
 For clarity and consistency, the analysis has focused solely on each Core City’s main local authority and not on the surrounding authorities that are part of the same urban area.
Readers of this blog will have seen our post that set out the key findings from the new The English Indices of Deprivation dataset. To continue the series, this article looks at the relative shifts in deprivation across the country from 2010 (the last edition) to today.
Before we get to the headline findings, it is vital to understand the limitations of attempting to undertake such analysis.
**Here is the technical geekery that you may want to skip – if so, scroll down to the maps and charts!**
Firstly, the methodology has changed between 2010 and 2015 making absolute scores impossible to compare. Secondly, new variables are used (and irrelevant ones discarded) which may change the overall pattern and results. Thirdly, relative weightings and correlations within the index may have shifted which, again, makes direct comparisons treacherous. And finally, we have used local authority values which reduces the level of detail within areas compared to using Lower Super Output Areas (which will be the next blog).
However, there are things we can do in order to make a comparison. Importantly, the overall ethos of the index hasn’t changed which means we can feel confident in exploring relative Undertaking analysis on relativity can be done but we must be clear on what this shows – it shows how a particular area performs compared to all other areas in 2010, and then compares this relative position to their relative position in 2015.
From here we have two options – we can either use a simple ranking system of local authorities to show the change in positions between 2010 and 2015. Or we can standardise both the 2010 and 2015 data by using z-scores.
Z-scores effectively show how many standard deviations away from the mean each point is expressed as either a negative figure (i.e. the area is below the average value) or a positive figure (i.e. the area is above the average value). What we have done is used the overall IMD score of each local authority in 2010 to show how far away from the average they are and compared this to their relative result in 2015.
**So, with further delay, here are the results!**
Figure 1: Relative change in performance of local authorities between 2010 and 2015
Firstly, the change in relative performance varies quite a lot across the country (Figure 1). Indeed, London appears to have become (relatively) better off – particularly Greenwich, Hackney, Newham and Tower Hamlets. Now, remember, it may not be that these areas have performed better itself (although parts may have) but that other places may have performed relatively worse. Interestingly, there are only eight local areas – four in the South East, two in London and one each in the East Midlands and South West – that have moved from being below the average in 2010 to being above average in 2015
There is also a marked difference in relative positions when we undertake the analysis by region within England. As Figure 2 shows, a large proportion of local authorities within London (76%) and the South East (64%) have improved (i.e. their position relative to the average has improved) while almost 80% of local authorities in the East of England have worsened.
Figure 2: Relative changes by local authorities in each region
What does this all mean? Well, a lot of factors are at play here. And, like all good research, it raises more questions than it answers. Are individual places actually improving or are other places getting worse? Has the change in methodology and variables skewed the results to show significant shifts between 2010 and 2015? Are places across the country well-equipped to deal with the challenges that deprivation brings?
However, the interesting point for me is how this may be affected by ongoing devolution. If places have more powers and budgets to solve local problems, can they improve their area and decrease deprivation? The degree to which they are able to achieve this will depend on a variety of factors, not least what could be potentially stated in the Autumn Statement and Spending Review later on this year.