The Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) is one of the core area-level measures in my research, which is looking at how young people’s occupational aspirations are shaped by the areas they live in. IMD scores are a composite of several specific deprivation ‘domains’, which separately measure a range of types of deprivation, from an area’s income deprivation and health deprivation to its education and skills deprivation. Lots of research and policy is based on analysis which links outcomes with area-level deprivation, based on overall deprivation scores. Indeed, current government aspirations policy is based on analysis which contends that young people’s aspirations are lower in more deprived areas. But much of this analysis, based on overall deprivation scores, overlooks two important points about the way deprivation is measured by the IMD:
- A high level of overall deprivation doesn’t necessarily mean an area is highly deprived on all deprivation domains
- Area-level outcomes may be due to particular forms of deprivation rather than overall deprivation
This throws up two interesting types of target area for deprivation-based research like mine: areas that have high overall deprivation scores, but low scores for specific deprivation domains; and areas that have have low overall deprivation scores, but high scores for specific deprivation domains.
I’m interested in one deprivation domain in particular – the Children and Young People domain. This deprivation domain measures an area’s Key Stage 2, 3 and 4 results, progression rates to further and higher education, and school absences. Essentially, then, it represents area-level educational deprivation. So far my analysis suggests that aspirations don’t seem to be lower in more deprived areas, when measured by their overall IMD score. Young people in the most deprived areas seems to have aspirations that are just as high as those of their peers from less deprived areas, and this finding runs contrary to the thinking behind current government policy. However, it does seem that educational deprivation is linked with lower aspirations.
So, I was interested to see whether, and where, the following two types of area existed:
- Areas with high levels of overall deprivation but low levels of educational deprivation
- Areas with low levels of overall deprivation but high levels of educational deprivation
I decided to focus on London because it’s a large city with a wide range of area types, including some of the most and least deprived areas in the country. The map below shows the geographical distribution of these two area types:
The north and east of the city contain many deprived areas which nonetheless have low levels of educational deprivation. Meanwhile, the more affluent south west and south east, along with a number of more peripheral suburban areas, contain areas with low levels of deprivation but relatively high levels of educational deprivation. The map demonstrates the existence of deprived areas with relatively strong educational outcomes (and, based on the initial findings from my research, probably sites of high aspiration), alongside less deprived areas with relatively weak educational outcomes (and therefore probably sites of low aspiration).
I think of these areas as exhibiting counter-deprivational outcomes. They’re particularly interesting sites for research, but they’re all too easy to overlook.