Dr Adam Whitworth

Adam Whitworth


Room number: E18
Telephone (internal): 27955
Telephone (UK): 0114 222 7955
Telephone (International): +44 114 222 7955


Adam is a Senior Lecturer in Human Geography interested in theoretically-informed applied research into the spatial organisation of employment support policy. He is passionate about teaching and uses a range of interactive teaching approaches to engage students as active learners within lectures and seminars.

Adam is currently on secondment to the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority working with local, regional and national policy partners on the design and implementation of regional employment policy.

He is a graduate of Oxford University (BA Politics, Philosophy and Economics (First Class Honours), where he continued for his Masters (MSc Comparative Social Policy) and PhD.

Prior to joining the department in 2010 he was a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Oxford on projects around the measurement of small area multidimensional deprivation and the statistical evaluation of policies to tackle those deprivations. High profile government projects during this period included the English Indices of Multiple Deprivation, the Economic Deprivation Index and New Deal for Communities evaluations.

Adam is a mixed methods researcher who has experience of qualitative methods and GIS as well as extensive quantitative and statistical skills with large and complex data. He has worked on projects funded by a range of different sponsors including the Department for Communities and Local Government, Department for Work and Pensions, ESRC National Centre for Research Methods, South African Department of Social Development, Welsh Government, National Audit Office, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Sheffield City Region and Gingerbread.

Adam is committed to using research to make impacts beyond the academy. During 2012/13 he was Deputy Director of the Faculty of Social Science's knowledge exchange gateway and led the design of the White Rose Doctoral Training Centre’s ‘Impact’ module for the university’s social science doctoral researchers. Throughout 2016 and 2017 he has been seconded into national and regional government supporting the design and implementation of effective employment support policy.

Adam is an active member of the UK Social Policy Association. He is a regular reviewer for various journals including the Journal of Social Policy, Social Policy and Society, Urban Studies and Environment and Planning A.


Research Interests:

Welfare-to-work reform and the Work Programme; lone parents and welfare reform; social and spatial inequality; conditionality, paternalism and well-being; crime; poverty, deprivation and exclusion; spatial statistics.

Current Research:

Adam's research is theoretically informed empirical analysis which seeks to inform policy and practice around issues of deprivation and inequality both across social groups as well as spatially between (typically small) geographies. His research falls into four main strands and further details about each of these, as well as a full list of publications, can be found via links to the right:

  • Analysis of UK welfare-to-work reforms, in particular the Coalition’s Work Programme, in terms of the logic and effectiveness of programme design, claimant experiences, impact on employment outcomes and well-being, and the effect of local geographical characteristics on performance.
  • Analysis of the logic and impacts of UK welfare reform for lone parents, in particular: their impacts on lone parent employment; the role of local structural factors (eg childcare costs, job availability) in affecting these employment outcomes; the well-being impacts of any conditionality-driven employment transitions; and consideration of the justness, necessity and efficacy of the reforms;
  • A second strand of research focuses on inequality and crime. One element examines the relationship between inequality and increased levels of crime, with a particular interest in exploring the potential links between local inequality and crime. A second element focuses instead on analysing the spatial distribution, concentration and persistence of crime at small area level. As part of this work Adam has produced small area estimates of fear of crime at small area (MSOA) level across England;
  • Adam remains interested in the measurement and analysis of multidimensional deprivation at small area level. As part of this work he is collaborating with colleagues at the Fondacao Joao Pinheiro in Minas Gerais, Brazil, around the potential for such work in the Brazilian context as well as on broader analyses around issues of deprivation, inequality and street working children;
  • Adam is interested broadly in spatial statistical methodologies, in particular geographically weighted regression techniques and different small area estimation methods. He is currently leading an ESRC NCRM network into small area estimation methods which brings together academic and policy colleagues (eg Office for National Statistics, Teagasc) to seek methodological dialogue and advancement in the field. This work has particular policy relevance given ongoing uncertainties over the future of the UK Census.

Undergraduate Teaching

Adam teaches on a range of undergraduate modules around political and economic geographies as well as research design and statistical methods. He is keen to engage students in lectures with questions, discussions and examples from his own research so as to support students to be critically aware and empirically informed in thinking through the often simplified debates about the ongoing changes in the world as well as to see the role and relevance of research to policy and people. In his teaching of statistics and quantitative methods Adam uses clear examples, simple explanations and applied research examples to show both how useful numbers can be and that it's not nearly as hard as students might at first imagine!

Adam was one of three nominees for the Best Practice in Feedback award at the 2011 Sheffield Students' Union Academic Awards. These are awards run, nominated and given by students in recognition that good teaching has an enormous positive impact on student's learning experience.

Adam's input on undergraduate courses includes:

  • GEO231 Socio-Spatial Analysis
  • GEO243 Political Geographies

All staff also engage in personal supervision and tutoring of individual students at all three levels in the following modules:

  • GEO163 (Information & Communication Skills for Geographers)
  • GEO263 or GEO264 (Research Design in Human or Physical Geography)
  • GEO356 (Geographical Research Project)

Masters Teaching

At Masters level Adam teaches on the Social and Spatial Inequalities course and is involved in modules on Global Inequalities, Urban Inequalities, Core Quantitative Methods and Advanced Quantitative methods. These seminars are a relaxed, open environment for critically informed discussion where students are encouraged to question and deepen their understanding of the issues and evidence. Wherever appropriate Adam is keen to contextualise his teaching with his own research activities, whether in relation to social policy in post-Apartheid South Africa or statistical methods for policy evaluation or the practical measurement of deprivation and inequality.

Adam's specialist teaching on Masters courses includes:

  • GEO6017 Urban and Regional Inequalities
  • GEO6019 Global Inequality
  • GEO6024 Quantitative Methods for SASI I
  • GEO6025 Advanced Quantitative Methods (Quantitative Methods for SASI II)

Adam currently supervises the following doctoral research students and would be interested to hear from potential students across his key research interests:

Abigail Taylor: 'A comparison of child poverty between Lille and Sheffield'
(co-supervised with Professor Jan Windebank, Department of French)

Elle Carter: 'The geography of welfare to work policy - patterns of work and well-being in the UK'
(ESRC Advanced Quantitative Methods funding - co-supervised with Dr Dan Vickers, Department of Geography)

Rebecca Holloway: ‘Understanding 16-17 year old student progression and retention across Sheffield’ (ESRC Collaborative PhD with Sheffield City Council – co-supervised with Prof Jeremy Higham, University of Leeds)

Adam is also responsible for the creation of the Doctoral Training Centre's 'Impact' module aimed as a training module for first year PhD students which will begin in the 2012/13 academic year.


Selected recent publications:

Whitworth, A (ed) Towards a Spatial Social Policy: Bridging the Gap Between Geography and Social Policy. Bristol: Policy Press

Whitworth, A (2018) 'Transforming employment support for individuals with health conditions?: 3Cs to the aid of the Work, Health and Disability Green Paper', Journal of Poverty and Social Justice

Whitworth, A (2018) 'Mainstreaming Effective Employment Support for Individuals with Health Conditions: An Analytical Framework for the Effective Design of Modified Individual Placement and Support (IPS) Models', Social Policy and Society, doi: 10.1017/S147474641800043X

Whitworth, A (2018) 'The economic case for well-considered investment in health-related employment support: Costs and savings of alternative modified Individual and Placement Support (IPS) models', Disability and Health Journal

Whitworth, A. and Carter, E. (2017) 'Rescaling employment support accountability: From negative national neoliberalism to positively integrated city-region ecosystems', Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space

Whitworth, A (2016) 'Neoliberal paternalism and paradoxical subjects: Confusion and contradiction in UK activation policy', Critical Social Policy, 36(4), pp1-20

Carter, E and Whitworth, A (2015) 'Creaming and parking in quasi-marketized welfare-to-work schemes: designed out of or designed in to the UK Work Programme', Journal of Social Policy

Rees, J., Whitworth, A. and Carter, E (2014) Support for All in the UK Work Programme? Differential Payments, Same Old Problem. Social Policy & Administration, 48(2), 221-239

View full list of publications