Neighbourhood impact on support for redistribution

The kind of neighbourhood where people live has an important impact on their support for policies to tackle inequality, according to a new piece of academic research. The Glasgow University researchers were concerned to find out whether rising levels of spatial segregation might in turn erode support for the redistributive policies of the welfare state.

Key findings

  • Self-interest or socio-economic status is the key determinant of support for redistribution, while education plays the key role in relation to support for welfare recipients.
  • A more altruistic orientation appears to increase support for both redistribution and welfare recipients.
  • Support for redistribution rises with neighbourhood deprivation, and also with neighbourhood density. The effects are particularly strong for groups less inclined to support redistribution in the first place.
  • In relation to support for welfare recipients, the impact of neighbourhood deprivation appears weaker but also appear to run in the opposite direction: the attitudes of those who are more or less altruistic diverge as density increases.
  • People who are less altruistic are less aware of the needs of others in general, and therefore find their views altered much more by the neighbourhood context.
  • Overall, the research supports the idea that there is a positive feedback (or self-reinforcing) effect from inequality through spatial segregation. Efforts to promote 'mixed communities' and 'compact cities' may therefore have important political impacts, in addition to social and environmental ones.

Source: Nick Bailey, Maria Gannon, Ade Kearns, Mark Livingston and Alastair Leyland, 'Living apart, losing sympathy? How neighbourhood context affects attitudes to redistribution and to welfare recipients', Environment and Planning A, Online first
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Publication date: 
May 17 2013