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Changing Low Income Neighbourhoods

London is simultaneously a city containing some of the wealthiest inhabitants of the UK and the poorest. Its income disparities are geographically complex - differences are seen when looking at inner London vs outer London, East vs West, borough by borough, and there are striking disparities within some boroughs too.

It is also an evolving city, where areas of severe income deprivation change as communities change, targeted initiatives by local governments, interest groups and charities and take hold, and the effects of regeneration and gentrification become apparent.

The datasets used in these two maps show the proportion of London households with the lowest 5% and 20% of the average 'net' income after housing costs (including the deduction of taxes, pensions and contributions, and payments towards housing - rents and mortgages). Each statistical unit area contains typically 1000 people, giving us a detailed picture of specific boroughs. The estimates are published every few years by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), with 2018 currently being the most up to date. The values are also adjusted to account for different household sizes in different areas.

By looking at net incomes after housing, we can understand the areas that suffer from low incomes after the often very high costs of London housing are taken into account; seeing money left to provide food and pay energy bills, as well as discretionary spending.

The Consumer Data Research Centre has compared the two datasets and mapped the areas that fall into the two categories (5% and 20%) for 2016 versus 2018. In both maps, green shows areas that were in the lowest category in 2016 but climbed out of it in 2018, while red shows areas that are newly in the lowest category of 2018. Green shows persistently poor areas that feature in both the 2016 and 2018 datasets.

Areas with Lowest 5% Adjusted Net Income (2016-2018)

Comparing the areas with the lowest 5% of net post-housing income shows some striking geographic concentrations.

The Lea Valley, stretching up through the eastern side of Haringey and Enfield, stands out as a clear pattern on the map. While a small part of the Valley in the south of Haringey is no longer in the lowest 5%, a large new section, in north-east Enfield borough, has newly appeared in this category in 2018, suggesting that areas of relative poverty have expanded northwards up the valley.

In contrast, Newham has almost entirely eliminated any of its small areas being in the lowest 5% of household income. In 2016, a significant part of the northeastern side of the borough had this status, but this has changed. Newham is a region that has seen substantial regeneration and gentrification.

The northern tip of Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster boroughs - the North Kensington and Queen's Park areas - have also moved into the lowest 5% category in 2018.

Areas with Lowest 20% Adjusted Net Income (2016-2018)

When looking at the lowest 20% of household net income, the changes are more complex. The Lea Valley again dominates the overall picture, but it is no longer a pattern of East vs West in London, and an Inner vs Outer London picture striking. Both central London (parts of Camden, Islington, Hackney) and the outer reaches of the capital (parts of Barking & Dagenham, Hillingdon, Croydon) areas have moved into the lowest 20% of income in 2018, while some of the traditional inner boroughs instead (Newham and Brent in particular, but also Haringey, Ealing and Greenwich) generally have many of their areas moving out of the zone between 2016 and 2018.

Kingston and Richmond-upon-Thames are the only two boroughs (along with City) to have not had any areas in the lowest 20% category in either 2016 or 2018.

As Londoners' incomes continue to vary, regeneration programs take effect and new opportunities open up in different areas, the city's income distribution map will continue to evolve. No longer can large areas of the city be characterised as having universally poor incomes - a more nuanced examination of net income is always needed to understand London's poverty profile.