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Delving into London's Poverty Profile data - poverty and inequality across London's boroughs

Author: Matthew Oakley, Director, WPI Economics

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We've been producing and updating London's Poverty Profile with our economics partner WPI Economics since 2019, presenting data on a range of poverty and inequality indicators. For London Challenge Poverty Week (11-17 October), Matthew Oakley, Director of WPI Economics, talks us through some of the latest borough level updates added to the site.

Tackling poverty requires us to understand it. As we enter London Challenge Poverty Week (11-17 October 2021), we’re focusing on two key aspects as developers of London’s Poverty Profile with Trust for London.

First, as the Trust's Chief Executive Manny Hothi highlighted yesterday (and WPI Economics' report with Central London Forward highlighted last week), poverty and inequality are as much of an issue (and often greater) in London as anywhere else in the UK. That means that national policymakers need to focus the ‘levelling up’ agenda on improving outcomes right across the capital, not just the rest of the UK.

For Londoners and London's policymakers, the second thing to understand is how diversity, poverty and inequality vary within the capital and, often with individual boroughs. That's what today's release focused on borough level data from London's Poverty Profile shows.

With more than 20 indicators available to assess outcomes borough by borough, it documents the challenges facing London's boroughs prior to the pandemic and early indications of some of the impacts of the pandemic.

Users can view a borough comparison tile or dive in to individual boroughs and their indicators.

Some of the differences in outcomes are stark. For example:

  • Compared to Lewisham (3%), Redbridge has three times the proportion of people with no formal qualifications (9%).
  • Compared to Kensington and Chelsea (24%), nearly twice the proportion of 19-year-olds in Lambeth (42%) do not have level three qualifications or equivalent.
  • Lambeth also has relatively poor outcomes on infant mortality, with rates per 1,000 live births more than twice as high as in Richmond upon Thames.
  • The average unemployment rate in the last three years in Waltham Forest (9.6%) is more than three times the rate seen in Richmond upon Thames (3.1%)

With large differences also seen in housing affordability and pay inequality, it should come as no surprise that child poverty rates in the capital range from a high of 56% (Tower Hamlets), to 17% (Richmond upon Thames).

Similar stark differences in outcomes are also seen in homelessness, health life expectancy and a wide range of other indicators. Of course, these borough headlines also hide huge differences in inequalities within boroughs. For example, while Kensington and Chelsea performs well overall on a range of indicators, it is widely regarded as one of the most inequitable places in the country, with outcomes for many communities as bad as anywhere in the country.

All of this matters. It shows that despite the huge strength of London's economy and labour market, many people, families and communities struggle to share in the benefits of it. Combined with high costs of housing and wider factors including disparities in health and educational outcomes, this results in huge inequalities that damage outcomes now, stymie potential in future generations and make us all poorer. Our previous work for the Trust has also shown that the pandemic has impacted most heavily, both in terms of health impacts and wider economic and social impacts, on those individuals, areas and communities already least able to shoulder the burden.

We hope to provide some of the understanding needed to guide change that will make a difference to poverty in the capital.

Additionally, if there is anything else you’d like to see on London’s Poverty Profile, please do let us know as we want the resource to be the best it can be for users making the case for London.

12 October 2021


Take a look at the London's Poverty Profile borough comparison tile, updated with the latest data.