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London: Contrasts in the quality of life between
the inner city and the suburbs

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There are clear overall contrasts between the inner and outer London boroughs reflecting the generalisations made in textbooks. However, amidst the relative deprivation of London’s inner city there are a significant number of affluent areas, and through the process of gentrification the number of such areas has increased over time. Equally, most outer London boroughs have their concentrations of poverty, often in post-1945 outer city council estates.

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small globe iconIntroduction

London is made up of the City of London, and the 32 boroughs, of which 13 are in inner London and 19 in outer London (Figure 1). This is the inner London–outer London distinction made by National Statistics which varies a little from some other interpretations.

The government is interested in measuring variations in the quality of life so that it can direct funds to areas which are relatively deprived. Over time, a wide range of different socio-economic indicators has been used to identify such variation. It is not surprising that each indicator, at least to some extent, produces a different pattern as every individual measure has its merits and limitations. Thus, most recent attempts to measure spatial variations in the quality of life have combined a range of indicators to form a composite quality of life index (or ‘index of multiple deprivation’). Figure 3 shows part of one dictionary definition of the quality of life.

Figure 3: Components of quality of life.

The government has refined the ways in which it measures deprivation, in an effort to gain the maximum improvement from the funds available. The latest government investigation in the quality of life in England took place in 2004.

small globe iconThe national Index of Multiple Deprivation 2004

The 2004 Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD 2004) measured deprivation for every Super Output Area (SOAs) and local authority (council area) in England. SOAs are groupings of Census Output Areas (typically 5) and represent approximately a minimum population of 1000 with a mean population of 1500. There are a total of 354 local authorities in England. Figure 4 shows the situation for London according to the latest research.

There are seven deprivation areas which make up the overall IMD 2004 (Figure 5). Each area includes a number of factors. The seven areas are:

  • Income. This includes adults and children living on income support.
  • Employment. This factor includes the average unemployment claimant count.
  • Health deprivation and disability. This includes years of potential life lost.
  • Education, skills and training. This factor includes the proportion of young people not staying on in school above sixteen.
  • Barriers to housing and services. This includes difficulty of access to owner-occupation.
  • Crime and disorder. The measure here is recorded crime rates for burglary, violence, theft and criminal damage.
  • Living environment. This includes houses without central heating and road accidents involving injury to pedestrians and cyclists.


The IMD 2004 includes six district measures of deprivation, which are as follows:

  • The average scores (1) and average ranks (2) measures are two ways of depicting the average level of deprivation across the entire district.
  • The extent (3) measure is the proportion of a district’s population that lives in the most deprived SOAs in England.
  • The local concentration (4) measure shows the severity of multiple deprivation in each local authority, measuring ‘hot spots’ of deprivation.
  • The income scale (5) and employment scale (6) measures show the number of people experiencing income and employment deprivation respectively.

small globe iconContrasts between inner London and outer London

Figure 6 shows the position of all 32 London boroughs in the rankings for England for all six measures. Figure 6 also shows the results of the previous government analysis carried out in 2000.

In the 50 most deprived districts (local authority areas), London boroughs were placed in the following positions. A rank of 1 equates to the most deprived borough in the country under each measure.

  • Average score: Tower Hamlets (4), Hackney (5), Newham (11), Camden (19), Lambeth (23), Westminster (39), Greenwich (41), Barking and Dagenham (42), Waltham Forest (47).
  • Average rank: Hackney (1), Tower Hamlets (2), Newham (6), Lambeth (13), Westminster (33), Lewisham (38), Hammersmith (42).
  • Extent: Hackney (1), Tower Hamlets (2), Newham (6), Haringey (10), Southwark (13), Camden (21), Lambeth (22), Greenwich (41).
  • Local concentration: Westminster (19), Tower Hamlets (22), Haringey (46), Hackney (47).
  • Income scale: Newham (7), Tower Hamlets (8), Hackney (9), Lambeth (15), Haringey (17), Southwark (18), Brent (22), Lewisham (23), Ealing (27), Enfield (28), Islington (30), Croydon (31), Greenwich (36), Waltham Forest (37), Camden (43), Barnet (47).
  • Employment scale: Lambeth (21), Newham (24), Hackney (26), Haringey (32), Tower Hamlets (34), Islington (38), Brent (39), Ealing (42), Camden (47), Croydon (50).

Overall, inner London boroughs appear 41 times in the 50 most deprived districts list over the six measures. This contrasts with thirteen times for the outer London boroughs. In terms of the latter, seven of the thirteen appearances are under ‘income scale’. Nineteen London boroughs fall within the 50 most deprived LA areas on at least one of the six district measures. For the measure of average rank, London ranges from Hackney as the most deprived local authority area in England to Richmond-Upon-Thames with a ranking of 300th out of 354.

Figure 7 shows small area deprivation in London. Six boroughs have more than half of all their SOAs falling within the 20 per cent most deprived nationally. These are Hackney, Haringey, Islington, Newham, Southwark and Tower Hamlets. Again, the inner London–outer London contrast is very significant.

Figure 1. London boroughs.
Figure 1.
London boroughs.
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Figure 2. Tower block on council estate.
Figure 2.
Tower block on
council estate.
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Figure 4. Map of London, showing index of Multiple Deprivation.
Figure 4.
Map of London, showing index of
Multiple Deprivation.
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Figure 5. Diagram of components of the Index of Multiple Deprivation 2004.
Figure 5.
Diagram of components of the Index of Multiple Deprivation 2004.
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Figure 6. Comparision of district level summaries for London boroughs.
Figure 6.
Comparision of district level summaries for London boroughs.
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Figure 7. Proportion of SOAs in top 10% and top 20%.
Figure 7.
Proportion of SOAs in top 10% and top 20%.
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