Income and Poverty

Is London’s poverty shifting to the suburbs?

  • Published: Oct 17, 2013
  • Author: Tom MacInnes
  • Category: Income and Poverty

In the report we published this week with the Trust for London, we looked at the changing pattern of poverty in the capital. A key finding of the report is that the pattern of poverty is changing – more working families in poverty, more private renters, fewer pensioners.

We also noted that the balance between poverty in Inner and Outer London has shifted over the last decade. At the turn of the 2000s, slightly more people in poverty were in Inner London. Now a clear majority are in Outer London. The idea of a poor inner city and rich leafy suburbs, which was always exaggerated, is now clearly incorrect.

This movement has been one of the consistent themes of these reports since we began to work on them five years ago. The first report showed how on a range of indicators from unemployment to poor health and housing, poverty in London was moving from Inner to Outer. What was notable were the deteriorations in the Outer East in particular, as boroughs such as Barking & Dagenham, Enfield and Waltham Forest became more deprived and places such as Camden, Westminster and Southwark less so.

Our most recent report shows this trend continuing, but with the emergence of greater pockets of deprivation in the Outer West and South of London too. The map below looks at the proportion of working age adults who are unemployed across London’s boroughs in three time periods: 2004-06, the recession years of 2007-09, and the three years since, 2010-12. By clicking the years you can see the levels change. Hover the cursors over the borough to see the value for each period. 

To view this graph on a mobile click here

Firstly and most obviously, unemployment goes up everywhere between 2006 and 2012. The map is a darker green in later years. And in many cases, the boroughs with high levels of unemployment then – Tower Hamlets, Barking – are those with the highest levels now.

But the exceptions are interesting. Whereas the highest level of unemployment used to be found in Tower Hamlets, it is now found further out in Barking and Newham.  Ealing now has a higher level of unemployment than Hackney. Waltham Forest has a higher level than Lewisham, Hillingdon a higher level than Camden or Islington. Westminster, Kensington and Wandsworth, all in Inner London, stand out for their low rates of unemployment.

That’s just one indicator, but the full report shows the pattern repeating across a range of measures. The six boroughs which have seen the greatest deterioration are in Outer London. The six with the greatest improvement, or least deterioration, are in Inner London.

All the predictions around the impacts of welfare reform were that this would happen. But many of our numbers predate those changes. Certainly, the effects of the household benefit cap, which makes Inner West London completely unaffordable to workless families claiming housing benefit, are not yet being picked up in the statistics. What welfare reform does is formalise what was a long process, of Inner London attracting highly paid workers and displacing both lower paid ones and workless people without social rented accommodation.

So the prediction for the next few years would be for more of the same. The question is, what will London look like then? 

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