Monday 24 November 2008

Area Effects - do they exist?

Much has been written in the academic literature about 'area effects', or how concentrations of poverty (or disadvantage, or deprivation, or whatever you want to call it) can act to create further disadvantage in terms of all sorts of things; from health to employment, to crime and so on.

Another issue here is the extent to which the geography of deprivation has largely remained the same in cities across the United Kingdom. So, if we look back in time
and follow neighbourhoods through to the present day many of the areas that we target with policy today were seen as 'problems' decades ago. Despite lots of money being spent on them, things have not got much better.

The Department of Communities and Local Government's recently published
Regeneration Framework has more to say on these issues but it also acknowledges the above two problems. But what can we do about it? Well, the Framework has three priority outcomes:

• improving economic performance in deprived areas;
• improving rates of work and enterprise in deprived areas; and
• creating sustainable places where people want to live and can work, and businesses want to invest.

Some good ideas but have we any reason to think it will be any more effective than previous approaches? Maybe. There is a growing realisation that, after 40+ years of area-based initiatives in England, something just isn't right in the approach we take.

The point of this post is to say that I concur with most of what's in the Framework but I don't there there is enough emphasis on the extent to which deprivation is a spatial
phenomenon, as well as an attributional one. What I mean by this is that the spatial manifestation of deprivation also needs to be tackled head on. But first, it needs to be understood - and this is what my current research focus is on. I've blogged on this before, but I just wanted to re-emphasise it here since the Framework was on my mind. There's also a reference to a paper that I co-wrote (bottom of page 55) with some of the spatial context material in it.