Urban size, spatial segregation and inequality in educational outcomes


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Urban size, spatial segregation and inequality in educational outcomes
    Urban size, spatial segregation and educational outcomes Ian Gordon and Vassilis Monastiriotis Department of Geography and Environment London School of Economics Published: August 2003 ISBN: 0 7530 1662 1  Department of Geography and Environment, London School of Economics, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE Phone: 44 (0)20 7955 6180 Email: I.R.Gordon@lse.ac.uk Acknowledgement: this paper is based on work undertaken within an ESRC-funded project titled “Does Spatial Concentration of Disadvantaged Groups Contribute to Social Exclusion?” (award L130251010), directed by Nick Buck and Ian Gordon, within the Cities, Competitiveness and Cohesion  programme. Vassilis Monastiriotis acknowledges financial support by the ESRC (T026271203). An earlier version of this paper has been presented at the ‘People and Places’ session, ‘Cities and Regions in the 21st century’, 25th anniversary conference, Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, August 2002.   2  1. Introduction Despite several swings in the theoretical basis of British urban policy since the late 1960s, one continuing strand (imported from earlier US initiatives) has involved a focus on action in small areas of concentrated deprivation, typically in the inner city, but also in peripheral estates. This was actually the dominant strand from the late 1960s (when poverty was rediscovered) to the mid-1970s, producing an ‘alphabet soup’ of spatially targeted projects -including EAAs, CDPs, CCPs. Many of these were fairly short-lived, but the Blair government has produced a rather similar array of EAZs, EZs, HAZs et al. 1  - and unlike the 1960s a widely accessible new set of small area (‘neighbourhood’) statistics to support the targeting and evaluation of such initiatives. From the start, this small area-based approach has been counterpointed by critical commentary challenging the efficiency of spatial initiatives as a means of targeting individuals exposed to the forms of deprivation with which the programmes were concerned (see e.g. Holterman, 1975). Often this critique went with suspicions that a tight spatial focus was simply a means of limiting financial commitments by addressing only the immediately visible part of an iceberg of poverty and deprivation. Against such criticisms there were and are two lines of defence of a small-area approach to urban social problems. The  first of these was that some key policies to tackle causes of deprivation were of necessity delivered on a small area basis by schools, field workers or through community centres and that specific interventions were required to make their delivery more responsive to the need of deprived groups, and to ensure that additional funding was actually directed to their needs. The second  , 1  These acronyms stand respectively for Education Action Areas, Community Development Projects, Comprehensive Community Programme, Employment Zones, Education Action Zones and Health Action Zones.   3more fundamental, response has been that spatial concentrations of deprivation themselves contribute substantially to the reproduction and intensification of the problems experienced by individuals, requiring strategic local interventions to limit the spread of poverty, alienation and social exclusion. Until recently, curiously little research has actually been undertaken (or commissioned) in the UK to evaluate this second more fundamental rationale for small area initiatives. In the US several important studies had been launched in the 1990s, but these also followed more than 30 years of spatially-focused urban programmes. 2  One reason for a recent growth of work in the field has been the increasing availability of large scale micro-data sets capable of being linked with aggregate small area data in analyses to test the significance of ‘neighbourhood effects’ on outcomes for individuals when relevant characteristics of their own have been controlled for. An important example is the British Household Panel study, with which Buck (2001) has shown that people’s chances of entering poverty are significantly higher and of leaving it significantly lower if they live in an area with concentrations of other deprived people – though the scale of this difference is relatively modest. But it is also possible to look for evidence of such effects within aggregate data sets on their own, through examination of the  form  of key relationships, when suitable micro-data sets are not available. This is the approach followed in the later parts of this paper in relation to school-level educational outcomes. As well as questions about the general significance of neighbourhood influences, however, there are also important questions to be addressed about the 2  At a larger spatial scale, in the case of UK regional economic policies, despite more than 50 years of experience there is still no substantial research assessing the actual significance of the negative social and economc impacts of uneven economic development and a spatially uneven economic distribution of unemployment, on which the case for top-down regional policies seems to rest.   4geography of residential segregation, which provides the basis for potentially significant variations in neighbourhood effects. One motivating force for such questions is the broader issue of what actually is ‘urban’ about deprivation, alienation and exclusion, and why specifically these are identified with big cities, and hence as providing the target for urban policies of various kinds. The literature suggests a number of different kinds of answer to this issue, from Durkheimian ideas about anomie as a feature of urban ways of life to more contemporary literatures focusing on the effects of de-industrialisation and concentrated job loss in the major cities. Here, however, we focus on a more purely spatial hypothesis about consequences of the differing spatial scales over which segregation occurs in settlements of different sizes, and their relation to the ranges over which ‘neighbourhood effects’ could be expected to operate. One starting point is the banal observation that in small communities the richest and most respectable necessarily live cheek by jowl with the poorest and least respectable, whereas in larger towns and conurbations they do not need to, instead tending to occupy areas where the lower status and potentially dangerous classes could not afford to live. This was a source of concern to moralising Victorian writers who feared the consequences of a loss of positive role models and social control in one-class urban areas from which the middle-class had departed (Stedman Jones, 1971). There are echoes of this idea in Wilson’s (1987) analysis of the contribution to formation of a ghetto underclass made by the more recent out-migration of middle-class African-Americans. Against such ideas, it might be objected that space is relative, with people adapting their action spaces so that it scarcely matters whether highly segregated areas are 100 metres across or several kilometres. On the other hand there are some social   5institutions, notably the neighbourhood school, which operate at a fairly consistent scale more or less independent of social geography, meaning that in big cities these are much more likely to be socially (and racially) homogeneous than in small or medium sized towns. In these cases at least if there are significant peer-group effects (the educationists’ version of the geographers’ neighbourhood effect), the outcome could well be much greater variance in educational outcomes in the larger settlements, both as between schools and population groups (or individuals). Whether or not such effects are really significant, area deprivation indicators based on standardised spatial units (notably in England the IMD2000 set from DETR) are customarily deployed in ways which are very sensitive to differences in the scales over which segregation operates. In particular, local regeneration needs are often assessed in terms of the proportion of wards within an area falling within the worst 5 or 10% of wards in a national ranking on one or other of the deprivation indicators – or (in the conurbations) the proportion of their local authority districts or parliamentary constituencies in an equivalent position on rankings of unemployment rates. If neighbourhood effects are  really important this could provide salient information about additional risks of social exclusion facing residents of such areas. But as an indicator of the incidence of personal deprivation, it is liable to convey an exaggerated impression of the severity of problems in the larger cities – if (as we expect) larger scale segregation in these cities means that more of their constituent wards, districts or constituencies figure toward the extremes of the national distribution. In the remainder of this paper, we look at these issues in turn, starting with an examination of the pattern of variation of residential segregation across housing/labour market areas, defined in terms of functional regions (section 2).
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