Deprivation vs political control

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The Indices of Deprivation is a hugely useful collection of datasets in England. Commissioned by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, and developed by OCSI, the indices allow us to understand relative deprivation of neighbourhoods across the country. The indices are used by many different organisation to support decision-making, from determination of funding for schools, to charitable grant-giving. Some even call it the billion pound dataset.

In the context of these indices, deprivation is a measure representing a range of factors, from quality housing, to air quality, educational attainment to crime. The indices tend to be published every 4 years or so, the last in England was 2015. Similar indices are also published for Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

England is split into 32,844 geographical units, each of which has a population of around 1,500 people. These are called lower super output areas (LSOAs). Each of these LSOAs is scored according to a range of factors, and then each LSOA is ranked according to all the others (ie 1 is the most deprived, 32,844 is the least deprived).

At Open Data Manchester, we believe that it is important that everyone is aware that this dataset exists, and that they have the opportunity to understand it and use it. Because of this, we are embarking on a series of events which will look at the indices of deprivation in detail, to help people understand what the data says about the area that they live in, and how they might be able to use that data to challenge local decision-making, to support their own business development, help with applications for grant-funding, etc.

While there will be events, workshops and training to come, we wanted to make something that visualised the dataset, to help kickstart the conversations. So we came up with this poster, that we’re calling a lava lamp plot.

To interpret the charts, local authorities are arranged according to the rank of average ranks of LSOAs in that area. For this measure, Manchester is the most deprived local authority, and Hart in Hampshire is the least deprived.The shape of each chart is derived from the number of LSOAs in each area that fall into each vigintile (quantiles of 5% – a more granular version of a decile). This distribution curve is smoothed, mirrored, and filled in according to the political party in control of the local authority council. The shape of the curve shows the distribution of LSOAs by deprivation – the fatter the bottom, the more deprived LSOAs there are; the fatter the head, the fewer deprived areas there are.

We’ll do a couple more posts over the coming weeks that look at the technical details for how we made the poster. We got the deprivation data from OpenDataCommunities, and the political control data from the Local Government Information Unit. The tools that we used to manipulate the data were R, RStudio, ggplot, and Adobe Illustrator. Code is available at this GitHub repo.

We are producing an edition of A2 Fine Art prints printed on heavyweight paper suitable for framing for £30 inc VAT. If you would like one of these please get in touch at julian[a]opendatamanchester[.]org[.]uk with the subject line Fine Art Prints. The A2 image can also be downloaded here

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