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March 9, 2015

London's growing inequality, mapped

By City Monitor Staff

So here’s some depressing, if unsurprising, news to start the week: according to new analysis of census data, London is vastly more unequal now than it was in the 1980s.

New research from LondonMapper, a project run by the University of Oxford and funded by the Trust for London, shows that the proportions of “poor” and “wealthy” households have each increased by 80 per cent in the city over the last 30 years. Over the same period, the proportion of middle-income houses has dropped by 43 per cent.

Here’s the ratio between the three types of households in 1980 and then in 2010:

Click for a larger image. Source: LondonMapper. 

It’s not just London, either: the same effect is taking hold across England, although elsewhere the change is a little less dramatic. Over the last three decades, the proportions of poor and wealthy households have increased by 60 per cent and 33 per cent apiece across the country, while the share of middle-income households has dropped by 27 per cent:

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Click for a larger image. Source: LondonMapper. 

It’s worth noting that the number of poor households quoted is probably an underestimate: the researchers used calculations released by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in 2007, before the financial crash and the current round of public spending cuts. 

The team also created maps showing where the changes are occurring, within London and across England. The researchers have used distortion maps to demonstrate this: the bigger the region is shown, the bigger the change it’s undergone. On some of the graphics this means that larger areas have seen a larger increase; on others, it means a larger decline. 

These ones show the rise in poor and wealthy households, and the fall in middle-income households:

Click for a larger image. Source: LondonMapper. 

As you can see, the disappearance of middle households is overwhelmingly in London, where polarisation is most dramatic.

They also broke down the stats to borough level. First, a reference map showing London’s boroughs re-sized according to their number of households:

Click for a larger image. Source: LondonMapper. 

The increase in wealthy households has mainly occurred in central and west London, with the largest increase in Richmond (32 per cent):

Click for a larger image. Source: LondonMapper. 

While the increase in poor households is concentrated in the east:

Click for a larger image. Source: LondonMapper. 

The largest poverty rise was in Newham, where researchers estimated that almost one in two households are now classified as poor. 

The proportion of households classified as middle-income dropped by most in the outer boroughs: 


Click for a larger image. Source: LondonMapper. 

You can see more of the data, including figures for 2000, using LondonMapper’s interactive tool here

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