How inequality in the UK is mapped: from the Victorian era to the 2019 election | FT


So Alasdair, we’re
talking maps today, and we’re also
talking inequality which is a big word in the
election manifestos this year. But in fact, when we talk
about mapping inequality that’s not a new thing. It’s been done before. So who was the first to do it? Well, the first person really
to do this on a large scale was Charles Booth
in Victorian London. And his study of life and labour
of the people of London is really the main one people
look to as the first. So people think of him almost
as the first social scientist because of it. We’ve got one of
his maps here, which is looking at the area
of Whitechapel in London. And just looking at it, it
looks like a really normal sort of street map except
there’s colours everywhere. What do the colours show us? The colours indicate the social
class of the individuals who live in these
different buildings. So, for example, along
Whitechapel Road, we can see Charles
Booth’s category as identifying these people
as well-to-do, middle class. Whereas, if you just turn
off to a side street, all of a sudden you see
different categories. Very poor or poor or even
the lowest class on his map, which he at the time dubbed
“vicious, semi-criminal.” These category labels are
fascinating because they say a lot about attitudes
towards the impoverished at the time perhaps. So, in Victorian
London going to talk about this cheek by jowl index
that you’ve developed later. But in Victorian London,
according to Booth, prosperity was always
just a little turn away from chronic want
and chronic need. Exactly. That’s what you see. You don’t have to go too far
off the main thoroughfares before you suddenly have these
intense areas of poverty. How did he collect
this information? Well, unlike today, where we’d
probably just quickly download the data and map it, he
had to get out and about and use up a lot of
shoe leather, also a team of researchers with
essentially clipboards and notebooks surveying
most of inner London effectively, speaking to
residents, taking notes. And obviously all this is
all online now for us to use, but very much a
data-driven exercise, but collected through hard work. So actually given
the inequality’s mentioned in all of these
political manifestos for the election, it’s
actually quite a timely thing to have delivered this
look at inequality across the whole of England. Yeah. I mean, when we started this
project about 18 months ago, of course, we had
no idea there would be an election anytime soon. But it has coincided with this,
and obviously the manifestos mention inequality. So yeah, it’s quite
timely, we think. So if we fast forward
from the Victorian era and look at the
outcomes of your work at the University of Sheffield,
what is this map showing us? This is a map of the whole
of England broken down into travel to work areas. So each individual
area, like London here, is effectively a commuter zone. So people travel
within these to work, and these boundaries contain
local labour markets. Another example would
be up in Liverpool, where you have Liverpool on
The Wirral as one local labour market, or Berwick, where the
local labour market area goes across into Scotland
across the border. So you deliberately
didn’t use things like parliamentary
constituencies and local authority areas
because they don’t necessarily reflect day-to-day human life
in the way that these areas do. Because if I pick any
one of these areas. So if I pick Hull
here, this area is defined like it is because
most of the people who live here work here. That’s right? That’s exactly right. It’s what we call
self-contained. It’s a self-contained
labour market area. So that explains
what the areas are. What do the colours mean? This particular
measure of inequality relates to how closely
packed together people of the same kind of
socio-economic class are. The darker colours indicate
where people who are more similar live closer together. And the lighter colours
is the opposite. So in the lighter areas,
that’s where we’re saying there’s a big contrast between
the people who live within those areas – if you like,
it could be the haves and the have-nots? Yeah, exactly. Why do we care about this? I mean, why does this
matter, do you think? There is a number of reasons. So it could be just to do with
the provision of services. Another good reason for
caring about inequality would be to do with the
political fallout right and how that feeds into the
electoral process, which we’ve probably seen
in the last few years. OK, does that mean the
areas that are dark, where there’s relatively
little inequality – these darker patches here across
the north, over in Cornwall and the southwest over
here in Lincolnshire – are we saying that
in those darker areas that they’re not problem areas? Well, there is a couple
of ways of looking at it. One would be to say inequality
here is not a problem. But the other, and I
think more plausible, explanation would be that
inequality is not necessarily the issue but absolute
poverty across the board. So what we have is relatively
equal but quite poor. There’s no inequality
because everyone’s poor. That’s probably not… Yeah, it’s probably not
what we’re aiming for. …what you’re aiming for, OK. So we were fascinated by this
map when we first looked at it because if we look at just
the lightest coloured areas on the map, that’s the top 20
most unequal areas in England, according to this data. So if we base it on just
the proximity of the haves and the have-nots
living cheek by jowl, much in the way that we just
looked at with the Charles Booth map of
Whitechapel, these areas here are the top 20 for
inequality in England. So we have unsurprisingly,
I suppose, London is here… most of these areas
are actually Midlands and to the north of England,
with one big exception being in the south we
have the Portsmouth travel to work area here is showing
up as highly unequal. This particular
measure of inequality generally picks out
places in the Midlands and north of England, which
your traditional centres of manufacturing, your
ex-industrial locations are at. For example, if you
look at somewhere like Barrow-in-Furness
travel to work area, or you look at somewhere
like Blackpool or even Sheffield’s travel to
work area, or Hull, these are areas of traditional
industry, where worker housing was packed very tightly
together, much like in the way it was in those
Charles Booth maps. So that’s really
interesting because, for me – and I’ll have to reveal
a personal fact here – I grew up in the
Portsmouth area. And one of the things
when I was growing up is that people always used
to describe the Portsmouth area as a northern
city transplanted to the south coast. So it’s fascinating to
see it coming out here at the national level. Let’s take a look –
and because I’m biased – we’re going to have a look
at this Portsmouth travel to work area and see what’s
really going on there. So what we’ve got
here, first of all… just to show you that we’re
zooming in… so we’ve got some satellite imagery here of
the wider Portsmouth area. So we’re zoomed quite in. Even on this satellite image,
we can see roads and so on. But what we can do is
if we take a layer… effectively this is
your map zoomed in… we can see that actually
this Portsmouth travel to work area, which is
this big yellow area here, it actually extends
quite a long way. And in fact, it’s
a peculiar shape because it’s quite
tall but quite narrow. And I know that that’s
actually a good thing, as far as the commuting
patterns are concerned. Because knowing
this area, I know that there is a
motorway going up here, and that this is actually
a commuting corridor and that there’s not
as much travel across. So that validates the geography. But what we’re really interested
in doing now is looking at the neighbourhood level
information that allowed you to make this area bright yellow. So let’s bring in this
neighbourhood level information for the Portsmouth area. And this is the first time that
we really start to capture some of the neighbourhood level
gradients in income deprivation that allowed you to decide which
areas of the country were more unequal than others. Again, let’s think
about the colour. The colour is now not showing
us the inequality, is it? The colour is now showing us
the actual level of deprivation. That’s right. So the individual areas
are these 32,000 areas, neighbourhood level,
about 1,600 people or so. That’s these very small
individual pockets of colour. They’re individual
neighbourhoods. They’re individual
neighbourhoods essentially. And what we see here
is a lighter colour. So the lighter colours here are
areas that score more highly on the deprivation index. And at the other
end of the scale, generally you’ll find these
in the suburban areas; the darkest colours on the
map, the least deprived area. So they’re really usually
quite affluent neighbourhoods. Going back to what
you were saying about the traditional patterns. So this is Portsmouth
city centre over here. The idea that you’ve actually
got high levels of deprivation in the city centre, gradually
getting a little more affluent as you spread out into much
more affluent rural areas. That’s a repeating pattern
across the country. Exactly. That’s generally what
we see everywhere. OK, one of the things that
fascinated me knowing about this area, though, is that in
the Portsmouth travel to work area you don’t just have the
city centre area deprived. You’ve actually got an area
called Paulsgrove up here, which is also coming out
as quite highly deprived for income, but also
this area up here. Now, this is the area in
the north, of Havant-, the town of Havant, which
is part of this commuting corridor. This is the Leigh Park Estate. So there’s two points here
which are in the most deprived 10 per cent in national terms,
which is Leigh Park and then a part of Leigh Park
called Warren Park. You have these multiple pockets
of deprivation surrounded by much more affluence. And these areas are not
far away from each other. The thing that struck me
when I looked at this data for the first time was that this
darkest colour here suggests that this is the most
affluent 10 per cent, in nationwide terms, bordering
areas that are in the most deprived percentiles
of the country. That’s the essence of
your spatial inequality? That’s right. So traditionally,
you’d just expect to see a geographical gradient,
where you don’t really get these extremes
next to each other. There’s a number of reasons
why you might get that. Sometimes it’s brownfield land
where new housing is being put, and maybe that’s more luxury
housing, luxury flats. And we’ve seen a lot of
that over the last 20 years. But occasionally what you get is
a really steep social gradient, and sometimes it’s because of
a road like you can see here. Or it might be a river
or a railway line, something like that. So there’ll be some
physical separation, even though they might… Usually. …be close to each other. Now, that takes me again back
to Booth because when Booth carried out his two
surveys 10 years apart, one of the things that he said
was that actually neighbourhood renewal was one of the things
that was helping to reinforce isolation of the deprived,
because there was a big railway building boom in the period
and a slum clearance programme. And his contention was that
building railway lines actually helped to box people in. We can still see signs of that. The physical geography
is different. Exactly. And if you go back
maybe 50 years before Charles Booth’s map
you have Benjamin Disraeli talking about people
living and being dwellers in different zones. And if you go back to
antiquity, in Plato’s Republic, we have him talking about
different quarters of cities, some rich and some poor. So these are not new themes,
but what we see in the map is we see these patterns
repeated at the small scale through time. But this is the
first time we’ve been able to see this data using
your atlas, if you like, to identify the
places to look at. So one of the things
about looking at the maps like this, though, is that
it looks like this area is connected to this
area and to this area. But we can see kind of
through the satellite imagery, peeping behind
that actually there is nothing physical
connecting those areas because it looks like
that’s fields and country. So one of the things
that we can do here is bring the road
network in here. And that helps us to
really see what’s going on. Because going back to
this deprived area here of Leigh Park and the
Warren here in Havant, if you look at the
road network, you can actually see that this
area here is pretty isolated. Although it’s very close
in geographical terms, as the crow flies,
on three sides, it looks like Warren
Park here is isolated from these more affluent areas. So let’s just take a little nip
into here and see what we find. What we’re talking
about, Leigh Park. Leigh Park used to have a
right reputation for roughness and that. It is a bit scruffy,
but it is what it is. But I mean, once upon
a time, Park Parade, as we used to call it,
used to have the main road going up the middle of it. I can remember it. There used to be
a Woolies there. Do you think there’s
still a sense of community in Leigh Park? Not as much as there
used to be, no. I don’t know. I really don’t know. I mean, look, these shutters… dammed. It’s either no one’s
in there, or they don’t open it until
halfway through the night. Did you go to places
like Emsworth, or… No. No? OK. No, because I’ve only
got a bus to catch. I can’t wait for somebody
to take me places. All right. Yeah, so you tend to stay in the
local area for your day-to-day, that sort of stuff? Yeah. OK. Tell us about growing
up in Leigh Park. What was that like? Well, I enjoyed it. I’ve got three sisters, and we
was all, we’ve all turned out fine, I think. So what role does the
community centre play for you? Yeah, it’s brilliant. We used to go to a
youth group here. And now we’ve obviously
both got children. We try to come at
least once a week. It’s mostly cheap, and
it’s really likeable to us. Does it feel like
a community centre? Yeah. Do you feel like there’s that
sense of neighbourliness? Yeah, it’s lovely. So do you know places like
Rowlands Castle and Emsworth? Do you go there? Not really, no. Do you meet many people
from those areas? Or do they tend to keep
themselves to themselves? Yeah, yeah. If we go there, you feel a bit
like, hmm, where are you from? Leigh Park… and it sort of
makes you feel a bit awful. But yeah, no, it’s nice to
have something here for us. You know, you have a motorway
here, fields and a golf course here, I think. And you can see that it’s
connected but only to itself. I mean, I know that that was
a post wolrd war two housing estate. Is that a typical pattern
from that era of… We do see a lot of that,
so good examples of this all across the country. Glasgow’s always
used as an example. It’s a good way of
understanding that, although people have lives in
theory in the same geographical spaces, they’re often living
completely different lives, disconnected from neighbourhoods
that are literally right next door. So this is why we can call
this the cheek by jowl index because they’re co-located
almost but living very different socio-economic… Exactly. …lives. And the other thing
is, particularly with the Leigh Park area,
is just how surrounded it is by affluence. I mean, what you were saying
earlier about a gradient, that just doesn’t
exist in any direction. It’s a steep cliff
face, if you like, of deprivation,
which is fascinating. What would Charles Booth make of
this stuff today, do you think? I think he’d be quite surprised
at the lack of connections between these places because
at least in his London maps everywhere was
very well-connected. Here, not so much, and
I think he’d probably question the aims and objectives
of 1960s planners perhaps. The locals call
this area the Warren because of this
network of streets that are inward looking. But it scores very
poorly on connectedness to everywhere else. Excuse me? We’re doing a little bit of
filming about Leigh Park. I wonder if we could have
a word or two with you about it, if we parked up
the car and had a quick chat. Yeah. Is that all right? So what brought you to Leigh
Park in the first place? I got married. I was living in
Selsey at the time. Oh, OK. And I married a Leigh Park girl. So you’ve stayed on
the estate ever since? Yes. Do you think that because
it is geographically so separate from
the rest of Havant, that that actually helps
with the community spirit, do you think? Yes, I think so. Yes. We’re a little bit
isolated from Havant, but I’ve never seen much
trouble up here in 30 years. Do you feel, compared to
when you were in Selsey, that people are more likely to
stay in Leigh Park in the sense that it is that community
space that people don’t… Yeah, I think so. Yes. Not many people know
each other in Selsey. Where you would get
to know people… you get to know people in here. So we’re saying that
actually, it’s not like it’s even stayed the same. In some cases, because of
post world war two planning, some of these areas are actually
even worse than they were back in Booth’s day. The old first law of
geography tells us that everywhere is connected
to everywhere else. And in theory, near places
should be more connected. But what you see sometimes
is that’s not the case. Near places are sometimes very
disconnected and very much not like each other. On the basis that it’s unlikely
that anyone from one of these more affluent areas nearby is
going to accidentally wander through the deprived areas
because you have to make the effort to get there, and
there is not a natural flow… No, exactly. …across those areas. One of the things
I felt while we were doing this whole exercise
and looking at these maps is just what Booth
would have made of our cartography,
the fact that we are letting these areas run out. If I take the road
network off, these areas, they do run into each other. They’re kind of
space-filling, aren’t they? Yeah. Although it looks like this is
one big area full of people, actually it’s a rural area, and
there’s not much going on here. So one of the things that we
wanted to do in the spirit of Booth was that with this sort
of mapping we’re showing that everywhere is
filled with colour, and that’s not really that
representative of what we’re showing. No, and one of the things, with
these neighbourhood areas that we’re using, there are
about 32,000 of them, and they’re designed so that
each one should have a roughly similar amount of people. But in less dense
areas like here, where population
density is very low, these areas are very, very big. But of course, not
many people actually live in the whole area. So one of the things
that we did then was to cut through this map with
a street and road network that would allow us to get
something that looks a lot more like the maps that
Booth was making. So let’s take those
away and replace it with a view of that
cut road network. And so here we go. Now I feel a bit more
comfortable because it’s what Booth would recognise as a map
that’s very similar to his own. So we’ve retained the colours. So the light colours are
still the most deprived areas. There’s the Leigh Park
Estate and the Warren. Here’s the city
centre of Portsmouth. This is the more affluent areas. Emsworth is here. We’re no longer in the
Warren Park Estate. We’re clearly somewhere
more affluent. Let’s see what we can find. Does it surprise you when I
said that this area came out very high for inequality
relative to the rest of the country? That’s not been
my experience, no. Have you been in
Emsworth for a long time? 15 years. 15 years? 15, 16 years. Did you come to it from
somewhere close by or from… From Bognor Regis. Do you know any of the areas
that I just mentioned… Rowlands Castle,
Havant, Leigh Park? Do any of those areas… Yeah. What’s your impressions
of those areas? Rowlands Castle, pretty
nice, pretty steepy. Leigh Park, it’s had
it’s day as it is. Far too big… it was the largest in Europe at
the time it was built, I think. Havant, that’s fine, good
shopping centre in there, good area. The biggest effect is
the amount of building that’s going on at the present
moment and the stretching of our services. I live in the square anyway. You live in the square,
and you’ve been in Emsworth since you were three, you say? Three. OK, so how has Emsworth
changed during that time? Hugely. Across the other side
of the Bell Pond, there are houses there which
50 years ago were selling for about £35,000 Now
they’re a half million. Wow. So it’s a big, big change
in the housing situation, which doesn’t help people who
have just moved into Emsworth. Younger people can’t really
find affordable housing, like a lot of places. But Emsworth used to be
on the par with Havant in terms of property prices. It’s not bad for
us that live here. But on the other hand, it’s not
very good for younger people. So given that change
actually, that you’ve just said between Havant and
Emsworth on the prices, does it surprise you when I
have mentioned to somebody else just a minute ago, that
this area has been identified as one of the most economically
unequal areas in the country, if you take the whole
Portsmouth region? That would surprise
me because I think property prices vary
on a much smaller basis than they did 25, 30 years ago. Leigh Park, you may or may not
know that Leigh Park was built after the second world war, when
all the houses in Portsmouth were… not all of them… were bombed. So the council bought Leigh
Park, which is a big country house, and they built, it
was the biggest council estate in the whole of
the UK at one stage. We picked up a lot of the
very similar thoughts, actually, in terms of
strength of sentiment about local community. But for the first
time, I think, we also picked up some really
interesting things about the way that some
places close to each other can have knock-on
effects of each other. So the discussion in there
about how property prices have ballooned here in Emsworth
at the expense of Havant, and in fact, the interplay
between Portsmouth and Leigh Park with
Havant being bypassed, these ideas that although
these are separate places, they are economically
interlinked, and what happens in one place
can cascade into another, it’s very, very interesting. Having a map like this,
the previous map we had is something we would
a choropleth map, whereas here it just shows
you where the buildings are. It shows you where
people live, effectively, in a way that allows us
to unpick the urban fabric and get a better
understanding of the potential for interaction but also
where the break points are, where you can see,
particularly here, a slight geographical
separation between areas that are very close together
but possibly not in terms of their social interactions. For me, finally,
knowing this area, you really can start
to see this Leigh Park area for the relatively
isolated area that it is. And that they’re
actually, although they are very close to
each other, there are these gaps appearing
across major segments right across the
whole commuting area. Suddenly starting to see much
more subtle decisions which, like you say, are
long-term consequences of urban planning decisions. The other thing this shows for
me is how pioneering Charles Booth was in his
representation of poverty and the urban fabric. These kind of things
are very difficult to do well, to do simply, and to
tell the story of places. And I think this does
a much better job than the previous
map in doing that. Where do you hope that this
new Booth map, if we can call it that, is going to go. Yeah, it’s really, for us,
about providing better spatial intelligence. This is what people maybe know
intuitively from their own neighbourhoods, but do they
understand it at a national level? So what we wanted to do
is provide a national map at a local level that
would allow policymakers, politicians, members
of the public – anyone who’s interested
in this kind of thing – to understand
local inequalities. When I talked to
people about what we’ve been looking at with
this map, a lot of people are saying exactly this. They said, well,
of course, there are rich areas and poor
areas within cities. Everyone knows them. But I think the thing that
surprised me with this was that the colours we’re using here
are not just for the local area. These areas place us in
the national rankings. So when we say the difference
between a bright yellow and a black colour here,
that’s the full spectrum of the national range
in income deprivation. So let’s have a look. Let’s zoom back out again
and look at what all of those neighbourhoods look like. And so here it is. This is our national view of
localised deprivation patterns. So just to clarify
with you, Alasdair, this is all of those 32,000
areas that you were talking about earlier, all of
those neighbourhoods. This is all 32,000 on one map? Yeah. What sort of patterns
are we seeing when we zoom this out
to the national level? The highest areas
of deprivation are to be found – so in the West
Midlands or Merseyside or West Yorkshire or the northeast
of England or Humberside. But one of the things
people don’t often pay so much attention
to is a kind of string of deprived
seaside locations. And it might not
be entire towns, sometimes it’s just
little pockets. So we have this in Lincolnshire. Or we may have that in Essex. Or we may have that on
the south coast of Kent. So some of those aren’t
immediately obvious. But again, we have
that all over. Now, we do say, there’s
rich and poor everywhere, but they’re disproportionately
clustered in those places and also in London. And actually, one of the other
things that I think I spotted when we first loaded this up was
that those areas that we were talking about right at the
start that don’t have much inequality, you can
almost see them on here because of the more
consistent colour patterns. The southwestern,
the Cornwall area, there’s much less of this
alternating bright and dark colour. It’s more uniformly
purple, middling… Yeah, that’s right. …in terms of deprivation. And finally, I think looking
at it in these terms, you’ve finally got
a map that really would take the attention
of Charles Booth because this is the sort
of map he wasn’t able to produce, simply because
of the restrictions that he was working with
back in the Victorian time. Great. Thank you very much.

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