About the research
As income inequalities rise, so too does spatial segregation – the tendency for richer and poorer groups to live in separate neighbourhoods.
This project examines whether spatial segregation may impact on welfare attitudes, specifically our views about whether inequality is too great or our willingness to support more income redistribution, and our views about whether welfare recipients deserve what they receive. It seeks to establish whether spatial segregation might act as a kind of ‘positive feedback’ mechanism; in other words, as we live increasingly apart, does this erode the bonds of solidarity, reducing support for redistribution, further fuelling increases in inequality?
The project has developed a new theoretical framework for considering how neighbourhood context may shape welfare attitudes, drawing on existing literature in neighbourhood effects and political geography. In empirical terms, the project shows a number of significant associations between welfare attitudes, and both neighbourhood deprivation and neighbourhood density. With attitudes to inequality and redistribution, people living in denser or more deprived neighbourhoods tend to show greater support for redistribution. The effects are greater for people on higher incomes and those who are less altruistic in outlook – both groups with lower levels of support for redistribution in general. The trends of rising spatial segregation and of suburbanisation would therefore be likely to lead to declining support for redistribution.
The research also looked at whether ethnic differences matter: does support for redistribution increase when we live next to any deprived neighbourhood – or does it have to be a deprived neighbourhood composed mainly of people from our own ethnic group? For people from minority ethnic groups, it appears that any kind of deprived neighbourhood increases support for redistribution. For people from the white majority, however, support for redistribution only increases when they live next to a deprived neighbourhood composed mainly of white residents.
With attitudes to welfare recipients, the influence of neighbourhood appears much weaker and, if anything, runs in the opposite direction. Support for welfare recipients declines when people live in denser or more deprived neighbourhoods, at least if they are less altruistic in outlook. Our main explanation for this is that it reflects the influence of national media coverage.
The research was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (RES-000-22-4192).
The study analysed individual data from the British Social Attitudes Survey 2009 to which a range of measures of neighbourhood context were attached. These measures included neighbourhood deprivation, neighbourhood density and other aspects of social composition including social mix. Indices were constructed of individual attitudes to inequality and redistribution, and to welfare recipients. Data were analysed using multi-level modelling.
This research was featured in the following journal article:
Bailey, N., Gannon, M., Kearns, A., Livingston, M., and Leyland, A.H. (In press) ‘Living apart, losing sympathy? How neighbourhood context affects attitudes to redistribution and to welfare recipients’, Environment and Planning A, 45. doi: 10.1068/a45641 Retrieved 28 August 2013 from http://www.envplan.com/openaccess/a45641.pdf
Findings were also presented at the following conferences and lectures:
Bailey, N., Gannon, M., Kearns, A., Livingston, M., and Leyland, A. H. (2012) ‘Living apart, losing sympathy? How attitudes to redistribution and to welfare recipients depend on where you live’, Social Policy Association/East Asia Social Policy Research Network, York, UK, 16-18 July 2012. Retrieved 28 August 2013 from http://www.gla.ac.uk/media/media_266131_en.pdf
Bailey, N., Gannon, M., Kearns, A., Livingston, M., and Leyland, A. H. (2012) ‘Living apart, losing sympathy? How neighbourhood context affects attitudes to redistribution and to welfare recipients’, Lecture for Centre for Urban Studies, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 9 October 2013. Retrieved 28 August 2013 from http://www.gla.ac.uk/media/media_266132_en.pdf
Gannon, M., Livingston, M., Bailey, N., Kearns, A., and Leyland, A. (2012) ‘Does neighbourhood context impact on attitudes to inequality and redistribution? Questions of scale and patterning’, European Network for Housing Research Annual Conference, Lillehammer, Norway, 25-27 June 2012. Retrieved 28 August 2013 from http://www.gla.ac.uk/media/media_266136_en.pdf