Glasgow includes some of the most deprived areas in the country but what does this mean? What is ‘deprivation’? How can a statistical measure reflect people’s experiences? How is it calculated and used? Let’s understand the data.

What is deprivation?

Income and living standards are just means to an end: people are deprived when they are restricted in their freedom to make choices about what they want to be and do. Deprivation is more than a question of income; it is relative to the surrounding norms. It is multi-dimensional: from basic necessities (diet, clothing) to the wider context (education, working conditions), both material and social.

How is it measured?

To reflect this complexity, the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) 2012 is built up from 38 separate indicators grouped into 7 broad categories: Income, Employment, Health, Education, Training, Crime, Housing and Access to services.

Deprivation affects people, not areas. Yet to allow geographical analysis, SIMD is based on datazones, each containing between 500 and 1500 people. There are 6505 datazones in Scotland and 694 in Glasgow.

  • The 38 indicators are used to ‘score’ and ‘rank’ all datazones across Scotland. There is an overall (composite) ranking or a ranking based on one of the 7 categories.
  • SIMD is a weighted indicator: around half the overall ranking is based on income and employment.
  • SIMD is a relative indicator: it ranks a datazone according to its position in the 6505 in Scotland. There will always be a most deprived area in Scotland as well as a least deprived area, regardless of underlying levels of deprivation or affluence.
  • There have been four waves of the SIMD in Scotland, in 2004, 2006, 2009 and 2012. The datazone boundaries have not changed, so you can make comparisons over time. However the indicators used to build up the SIMD have changed slightly over time.
  • The convention is to define a deprived area as in the bottom 15% of datazones ie the bottom 976 Scotland because after this point, levels of deprivation drop off quite rapidly. However this is an arbitrary definition and the bottom 10% (650) or 5% (325) could equally be used.
  • Don’t assume that the overall score for an area is the same for each category: there is usually a wide variation and it is worth drilling down to see how the overall score has been built up.
  • It is a measure of deprivation, not of affluence or overall quality of life. As there isn’t any alternative measure, it is still valid to say that defining an area by an absence of deprivation is as good a measure of affluence as any other.

Glasgow has by far the largest proportion of any local authority in Scotland in the bottom 15%. This figure has fallen substantially since 2004 for several reasons: population and housing changes, and improvements to the local economy.

Scottish Government Statistics