House price data reveals insight into religious integration of Glasgow

  • Analysis of Glasgow property market finds religious mix of neighbourhoods just as important to buyers as house type and size
  • Study identified ‘hidden’ social boundaries that can exist between communities
  • Develops a practical method for distinguishing empirically between ‘mix’ and ‘integration’
  • The new method could be used to measure levels of social integration in cities across the world

Connections in house price changes across neighbourhoods have been used for the first time to identify the level of religious integration in Glasgow, revealing that the religious mix of a neighbourhood is as important to homebuyers as house type and size.

housingResearchers at the University of Sheffield and the University of Glasgow looked at the extent to which house prices moved together across neighbourhoods using different religious populations as an indicator of integration across the city.

Properties in neighbourhoods that are considered to be close substitutes for one another typically experience similar movements in price over time. A pair of neighbourhoods can be said to be religiously integrated if they are perceived by the market to be close substitutes despite their religious differences.

However the study, published in Urban Studies and carried out under the auspices of the Economic and Social Research Council-funded Applied Quantitative Methods Network (AQMeN), identified clear differences in Glasgow’s house price movements depending on the religious demographic of a neighbourhood.

Researchers compared these differences to more typical attributes used to identify similar neighbourhoods such as house type, size and income levels.

They found that for some religious groups (Church of Scotland, Roman Catholic, Muslim and no religion), differences in religious mix between neighbourhoods was just as important in determining whether house prices moved in tandem as these more tangible attributes. This suggests that the Glaswegian housing market is by no means blind to religion.

Professor Gwilym Pryce, Professor of Urban Economics and Social Statistics at the Sheffield Methods Institute and co-author of the study, said: “It is the first time that house price data has been used in this way and offers a completely new method to measure the degree of social integration in a city or region.

“While we know that Glasgow has a diverse mix of religions, our study indicates that religion has a role to play in determining which neighbourhoods are considered to be close substitutes for one another and suggests a lack of integration.”

The method can also be used to identify ‘hidden’ social boundaries between communities. For example, researchers identified stark differences in the substitutability of postcodes just north and south of the Forth and Clyde Canal in Glasgow, even though these communities were only a few hundred metres apart.
Being able to identify these boundaries will allow policymakers to identify social divisions and help create more effective approaches to issues of social cohesion.

Professor Pryce added: “The advantage of our approach is that it can be computed for any city, country or region where house price data is available. It’s also not limited to just comparing religious integration, but can be used to measure integration for many different characteristics such as social class, educational attainment or political allegiance.

“At the moment, we have to rely on social surveys to provide insight into levels of the integration but these have limitations not only because respondents often give answers they think the interviewer is wanting, but also because the same survey is rarely conducted for different cities, countries and regions, or in multiple time periods. This makes it difficult to compare differences in integration over time or across space.

“However this is possible with our method and potentially opens up new avenues of research on the nature and impact of social integration and how it affects outcomes such as educational performance, social mobility and health outcomes."

Additional information

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