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Mapping Poverty and the Riots: Correlation or Causation?

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The British Guardian has just published a fascinating interactive map which plots out where violence has taken place in the last week, in relation to the regions in England where poverty and unemployment are the most severe. Data journalist Matt Stiles took the newspaper’s research on economic poverty, and all the information available about the recent riot incidents, and overlaid the two together. The darker red colors represent poorer neighborhoods, while the blue areas highlight the richer regions.

riot poverty map

A correlation does not equal a causation, but this data map is definitely a wake up call. Alasdair Rae is a professor of Urban Planning at the University of Sheffield, and is an expert on mapping data, as well as analyzing the myriad of factors that contribute to poverty. In the Guardian he explained about the research, and the complicated process involved with mapping economic differences in the country:

“The English Indices of Deprivation are now published every three years and are the government’s official measure of how poor places are, based on over 30,000 areas of about 1,500 people each. They include information on income, employment, health, education, services, crime and living environment but the final scores for each area are most heavily influenced by income and employment data. The national pattern of deprivation for England tells a familiar story – deprived inner cities in London and the North (particularly Liverpool, Manchester and Middlesbrough), poverty in coastal towns like Clacton and Southend) and significant disparities between places only miles apart.

With this information, we get a fine-grained picture of which areas require extra assistance, which areas have not benefited from previous rounds of policy intervention, and which areas are least in need of help. Ultimately, the information is used to help policy makers decide where money should be spent. By making it available in map format, it also allows local people to see how their area matches up to others in England, because the Indices of Deprivation are a relative measure. Similar indices exist for other parts of the UK, and though these are derived slightly differently they tell a similar story.”

map image is via the Guardian
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