A Tale of Two Cities: The Sheffield Project

The Social and Spatial Inequalities Research Group at the University of Sheffield's Geography Department has carried out research into the changing social geography of Sheffield. The research was commissioned by Sheffield Brightside MP David Blunkett.

The researchers analysed a wide range of indicators, obtained from a variety of sources, including South Yorkshire's Local Area Statistics On-line Service (LASOS), NHS Sheffield and Sheffield City Council, as well as national data sources such as the Office for National Statistics, Neighbourhood Statistics and HM Land Registry.

The report finds that many of the historical inequalities across Sheffield persist, and have in some cases, despite both local and central government interventions, increased. The report looks at inequalities in Sheffield from the late 1960s/early 1970s to as near to the present day as possible.

The report highlights the divides which exist between the best-off and least well-off areas of the city. For instance, the report shows the differences between the Hallam constituency compared to the north-east of the city – where fewer children stay on at school, more residents live in Council Tax Band A properties (99% of those living in Shiregreen, for example), there is a greater likelihood of being a victim of burglary and life expectancy is below the Sheffield average.

Speaking about the findings, one of the co-authors, Dr Bethan Thomas said: "This report shows in stark detail the inequalities that persist across Sheffield's neighbourhoods. While there have been improvements and in many cases the gap between the best-off and worst-off parts of Sheffield has narrowed, high inequalities remain, and in some instances, such as for standardised mortality ratios, the gap is actually widening."

Co-author Dr Dan Vickers added: "This report reveals in detail how people's chances of health, wealth, education and dying vary greatly across the city depending on the neighbourhood in which they live. With the likely reduction in central government intervention in the coming years and Sheffield Council's changed priorities, we fear that what improvements there have been may well be reversed in future years."

Some of the key findings that underline the inequalities across the city include:

• Poverty and wealth
o Despite poverty rates reducing as a whole, Sheffield has become more polarised since the 1970s, when many inequalities were far less evident.
o Between 2001 and 2005 there was an increase of around 4% in the proportion of people living in areas that had an official deprivation score that was very high (more than double the average score) relative to the Sheffield average.

• Education
o Pupil absences have declined across the board, and the inequalities between the best and worst areas have also reduced.
o GCSE average point scores in Hallam constituency appear to have reached a 'ceiling', whereas the five other constituencies all showed slight improvements.

• Employment and income
o There is a wide variation in unemployment rates across Sheffield. Changing demographics in Central constituency have seen its previously high rates decrease. Brightside now has the highest rates while Hallam has consistently had the lowest.
o There is a big gap in income between Hallam and the other five constituencies, with Hallam having an average household income of over a third higher than the Sheffield average.

• Housing
o In the Ecclesall neighbourhood 2% of households live in properties in Council Tax Band A while in Shiregreen, 99.3% do.
o At the end of 2008 the ratio between the highest and lowest dwelling prices stood at 2.59, down from a peak of 4.59 in 2001.

• Health shows a more mixed picture.
o The gap in life expectancy between the best and worst constituencies, Central and Hallam, decreased from seven years to six for the period 1997–2006. The overall gap in life expectancy widened when comparing the worst-off and best-off neighbourhoods, from 16.6 years in 1997/2001 to 17.9 years in 2002/06. For example, in 1997/200, people's life expectancy in Netherthorpe was 70.4 years and in Ecclesall 81.5, a gap of 11.1 years. By 2002/06, life expectancy had increased to 75.3 in Netherthorpe and 88.8 in Ecclesall, the gap having widened to 13.5 years.
o In comparison, the gap in Standardised Mortality Ratios (SMRs – see Note 2 to Editors for an explanation) for people under the age of 75 between the best-off and worst-off areas of the city widened from 1.68 in 1990/91 to 2.01 by 2006/07. This means that people in the poorest areas are dying even sooner, at a greater rate, than those in the wealthiest.

• Transport
o There is a consistent pattern of road traffic accident casualties, with the western part of the city having far fewer than the eastern: Hallam constituency has fewest casualties and Brightside the most.

• Policy and spending
o The Liberal Democrat administration that has had control of the Council since 2008 has revised the city's Neighbourhood Renewal Strategy, which has seen a reduction of funds to the more deprived parts of Sheffield both in absolute and relative terms.

Notes for Editors: The Standardised Mortality Ratio (SMR) is the ratio of the observed number of deaths to the number of expected deaths in an area, multiplied by 100, having adjusted for age and sex. The expected number of deaths is the number of deaths that would be expected if the local age-specific death rate was the same as the national rate. An SMR of 100 means that there is no difference between the observed and expected number of deaths. An SMR over 100 means that mortality is higher – for example an SMR of 130 means that mortality is 30% higher than that of the general population. Conversely, an SMR below 100 means that mortality in that area is lower than average.

Led by Professor Danny Dorling, the Social and Spatial Inequalities Group aims to conduct interdisciplinary research which contributes to an evidence base for policy development aimed at reducing social inequalities. Members of the group have studied inequalities within cities, across countries and worldwide, in both recent years and over longer timescales, on a wide range of issues such as health, wealth, education and employment.

For further information please contact: Lindsey Bird, Media Relations Manager, on 0114 2225338 or email l.bird@sheffield.ac.uk