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School of Environment, Education and Development

Improved targeting of public spending to deprived urban areas

Our research has transformed how central and local government describe and classify deprived urban areas. Through a revised ‘deprivation index’ authorities are now better able to direct resources, assisting regeneration initiatives to more effectively target specific issues within a given area.

With more effective methods to describe deprived urban areas, authorities can better direct resources to the neighbourhoods most in need

Run down closed shops with the shutters down. '£1.5 billion' is overlaid in white text
The Working Neighbourhoods Fund comprises £1.5 billion for helping the most deprived areas in England.

To tackle social deprivation, policy-makers need to pinpoint areas where deprivation is most acute, before deciding on appropriate forms of intervention. In so doing, a robust classification of deprived areas is crucial. Formerly, the measure used for this task – the ‘deprivation index’ – was relatively crude, and did not sufficiently account for the complex and multifaceted nature of deprivation or adequately capture either different types of deprivation or the many underlying contributory factors.

Researchers at the Spatial Policy and Analysis Laboratory (SPAL) have produced a comprehensive measure of deprivation which highlights that different types of deprived area require individually tailored policy intervention.

Key applications

  • Improvements to the Index of Deprivation used by central Government to shape strategy, determine eligibility for funding and direct regeneration spending to the most appropriate areas
  • Updating of this index, to take account of boundary changes within English local authority areas
  • Preparing the groundwork for the Index of Multiple Deprivation, which has been instrumental in directing eligibility and planning for many initiatives including the £1.5 billion Neighbourhood Renewal Fund
  • Inclusion of a new deprivation classification system within the 2009 Manchester Independent Economic Review, and subsequent Greater Manchester Strategy

Our research

Rows of different coloured front doors. The number 3 is overlaid in white text.
Public regeneration funds since 2001 have comprised of £3 billion.

Researchers at SPAL developed a ‘matrix approach’ to measure geographical variation in social and economic conditions. This approach uses a range of ‘domains’ to measure different aspects of deprivation and guides the choice of indicators appropriate for a specific area.

The research developed methods to standardise deprivation values and account for the statistical distribution of socio-economic data. This method makes it possible to calculate the overall degree of deprivation for each local authority, and the extent of deprivation within an authority.

Deprivation is now measured, in part, according to a range of new characteristics, such as role that a neighbourhoods plays within the housing market (e.g. how many residents are moving in and out of an area).

The research also provides evidence that different types of deprived area require different forms of policy intervention, depending on the specific set of functions that the area plays within the wider urban context.

Key people