By Robert Clear, Researcher in the City of London Research Team
Poverty is one of the most persistent and high profile challenges for policymakers in the capital. Among the most important tools available to help understand the nature of the problem, and how it is changing over time, are the English Indices of Deprivation. These divide the country into 32,844 small areas (known as Lower-layer Super Output Areas – or LSOAs), and rank them in order of how deprived they are. In the latest version of the indices this is determined using thirty seven indicators that fall into seven groups (listed with their relative weightings in brackets):
- Income Deprivation (22.5%)
- Employment Deprivation (22.5%)
- Education, Skills and Training Deprivation (13.5%)
- Health Deprivation and Disability (13.5%)
- Crime (9.3%)
- Barriers to Housing and Services (9.3%)
- Living Environment Deprivation (9.3%)
The Indices are designed for comparison, rather than quantifying how deprived specific small areas are and they are particularly useful for exploring the patterns of deprivation across larger areas. Below are maps of London from 2004 and 2015, where the status of the capital’s LSOAs are coloured according to which band they occupy in the rankings (whether, for example, they are in the 5% most deprived vs the 50% least deprived).
Looking first at the 2004 map, we can see high concentrations of deprivation in inner London, particularly in Tower Hamlets, Newham and the eastern half of Haringey. There is a striking concentration in the inner east of the city, stretching upwards through hackney and towards Tottenham. This reflects a longstanding trend in which the capital’s deprivation has been slanted towards its more densely populated core and away from the suburbs.
In the 2015 map, however, the spatial patterns of deprivation have changed.
Here we can see that deprivation is more widely spread across the city. The large, deep purple areas of inner London that were among the most deprived 20% in England are now heavily punctuated by the lighter shades that indicate lower levels of deprivation. At the same time, large areas of suburban Enfield and Barking and Dagenham have become poorer. There are also significant increases in poverty on the capital’s southern perimeter in Bromley and Croydon, and at its northern edge in Havering. Some boroughs have seen comparatively little change, with Richmond and Kingston two of the least acutely deprived in the capital in 2004 and remaining so in 2015.
These, however, are among the few. Overall, the maps suggest that in the eleven years that separate them, poverty thinned across London’s core and its East End, and shifted to its outer boroughs. The maps describe relative degree of poverty, rather than expressing it as an absolute measure – but illustrate the challenge of reducing deprivation across the board, and preventing it from moving from one area to another.