The impact of neighbourhood context on attitudes to inequality and redistribution

Lead Research Organisation: University of Glasgow
Department Name: School of Social & Political Sciences


Abstracts are not currently available in GtR for all funded research. This is normally because the abstract was not required at the time of proposal submission, but may be because it included sensitive information such as personal details.


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Description The project examined whether attitudes to inequality were affected by the places in which people lived. We hypothesised that people who lived in neighbourhoods with higher levels of poverty or deprivation would be more likely to perceive inequality to be too great and therefore more likely to support redistribution by the Government. We also hypothesised that this effect would be greater for more affluent individuals since they would be less aware of the extent of inequality in the first place.

Our findings supported both views. People in more deprived neighbourhoods showed greater support for redistribution, and the effect was significantly greater for higher income groups. Indeed, for low income groups, their support for redistribution was not affected by neighbourhood deprivation. We also found that higher density neighbourhoods showed greater support for redistribution. We cannot be sure why but we believe that it indicates that living in larger towns and cities (which is where denser neighbourhoods are found) also raises awareness of inequality.

One alternative explanation for our results could be that people who are more likely to support redistribution are also more likely to move to more deprived or more urban neighbourhoods. We examined this possibility by comparing the responses of people who were more or less 'altruistic' in their outlook. We found that altruists did tend to have higher support for redistribution but this did not change our earlier finding - quite the contrary. Looked only at non-altruists, their attitudes were particularly influenced by where they lived.
Exploitation Route Future research could extend our work through qualitative investigation of how neighbourhood shapes awareness of poverty and inequality, and hence attitudes. More longitudinal study of attitudes in quantitative surveys could also help to provide stronger evidence on the causal connections.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Government, Democracy and Justice

Description Scientific impacts The major scientific contribution of this study is to provide original insights into how neighbourhood context appears to shape attitudes and does so in different ways for different groups. These findings suggest that the spatial segregation of households into richer and poorer neighbourhoods may operate as a potential mechanism leading to 'policy feedback' or 'path dependence' in welfare regimes. Previous work has shown how widening social inequality drives rising spatial segregation. Our work shows that, in turn, this segregation undermines support for redistribution, which will tend to further widen inequality. The findings also make important contributions to the "neighbourhood effects" (NE) literature. First, they suggest that literature could usefully broaden its focus to include impacts on political attitudes. Second, they suggest that the impacts of neighbourhood context may depend upon types of individual characteristic which are not generally taken into account in NE studies, notably aspects of individual personality. Third, they suggest that NE studies do not need to be so concerned with the issue of scale. Measures at different scales correlate highly so we do not lose much by operationalising our measure at a single scale. Wider impacts We have not conducted wider dissemination of findings to date but can identify a number of policy-relevant issues which we will be seeking to disseminate in the coming months. As anticipated in the proposal, the project has potentially important insights into the impacts of 'mixed communties' policies and of policies for urban containment or 'compact cities'. Results suggest that efforts to promote social mix or to limit spatial segregation would be a "positive sum game" in relation to support for redistribution. Support for more affluent groups would rise but support for lower income groups would not fall. Efforts to promote 'compact cities' would also tend to increase support for redistribution. Support for redistribution might also be seen as an indication of social cohesion in the sense of concern for others, in which case mixed communities and urban compaction policies may also have positive impacts in that sphere. Since the proposal was drafted, however, there have been substantial changes in the policy environment. At UK level, the Coalition government is likely to be much less receptive to arguments that favour centrally-driven policies in relation to neighbourhoods or urban planning more generally, having pursued policies of decentralisation or localism, and deregulation in planning.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal

Title BSAS+Nhd Chars 
Description BSAS 2004 and 2009 data with detailed set of neighbourhood contextual variables attached. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Provided to PhD student at LSE working on political attitudes and neighbourhood context. No results published yet. 
Description Smart Statistics 4 Smart Cities Conference, Kalamata, Greece - Konstantinos Ampountolas 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Konstantinos Ampountolas, UBDC Associate Director gave a presentation on Industrial Engagement Developing Smart Statistics for Urban Mobility: Challenges and Opportunities at the Smart Statistics 4 Smart Cities Conference, Kalamata, Greece held from the 5-6 October 2018.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018