Stats entertainment

Monthly Archives: November 2012

Source: ONS

If there’s one thing Pretty Graphs likes as much as graphs it’s maps. Maps are a great way of visualising data and help us to see. Take this map of population density in my beloved city of Southampton, based on data from the 2001 and 2011 census. At first glance it looks fairly similar, but taking a closer look at the area around the town-centre (the area just to the right of the highlighted area) it seems that population density has increased dramatically between censuses.

A key difference: Population density in the centre of the city grew significantly between 2001 and 2011

The main reason for this can be seen on the ground. Walking immediately south, or South East of the CBD you find yourself among  many recently built high-rise apartment blocks where once there had been – and to an extent still is – a maudlin mixture of old warehouses, derelict nightclubs, lorry-parks, and an abandoned school. This was the kind of inner-city imagined by the Sci-fi author Clifford Simak who in the 1950s takes America’s rapid suburbanisation to it’s logical conclusion – the death of the city.

John Smiths £1.50 a pint; Once upon a time this was the beating heart of Southampton’s night-life

One term which was used to describe the kind of urban decay which continued right up until the late 1990s was ‘donut city’ – a city hollowed out with no centre, but then something happened. Green-field building came to a sudden halt, possibly due to changes in planning practice, and developers turned to the city once again, building not low-rise suburban homes, but high-rise apartment blocks.

A recent high-density housing development

Who lives in these blocks? Well, according to the Census data for the areas of interest it isn’t people over 65, and it’s not people aged under 15, both of whom make up a low proportion of the population of the central areas. This is perhaps not surprising as high-rise apartments are unappealing to both the elderly and families; For the elderly they are difficult to access, whilst for families they lack space and access to amenities. The location is also far more likely to appeal to the young, who want to live, work and play in the urban centre.

From a sociological perspective there has been much said on the impacts of high-rise living in terms of community. Indeed, it was reported in one building in the area that there was an issue with some residents not disposing of their rubbish responsibly causing concerns about rats – a small issue perhaps, but illustrative of the difficulties arising with these developments.

Looking at the age data there also seems to be evidence of a form of segregation by age-group as this next map shows:

Source: ONS

Whereas the higher percentages of over 65’s in East and West of the city, as well as the urban periphery seem more-or-less unchanged in 10 years the core of the city, which had a much lower proportion to begin with seems to have seen a reduction in the percentage of this age group.

It appears that two cities emerging; one East of the river Itchen which is older and suburban and another based around the urban core which is much younger, typically childless, and living in high-rise apartments.

All this from a few maps!

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It seems like a strange question. Surely the Premier League, which generated 2.5 billion Euros in 2010/11 – making it by a long-shot the highest  revenue generating league in the continent (according to the Deloitte 2012 Annual Review of Football Finance), which attracts the cream of the worlds footballing talent, and is breaking all records in securing £5 billion for its TV rights alone, is far more successful than the Championship, a mere second tier league.

But if we define success in terms of the ability of clubs to attract spectators, as this graph shows in the period since 1985/86, the year English football attendances fell to a post-war low,  what is now known as the Championship has significantly out-performed the Premiership, not in terms of total attendances,   (the Premiership still draws considerably more spectators – on average – per game) or the total increase in numbers (again for much of the period the gap between the two in terms of average attendances has grown), rather the rate at which attendances have grown. As the graph shows if we take the 1985/86 season as the starting point, in percentage terms the growth rate for average attendances over the season in the Championship has been much higher than for the Premier League

So what possible explanations exist for this?

1.) A mathematical quirk

As any student of GDP growth will tell you in percentage terms it is much easier to record high levels of growth when starting from a low-base. In the analysis here The starting figures for the Championship and the Premier League are 7688 and 19563 respectively, so even a lower increase in the total figure for the Championship could see a much higher growth rate in percentage terms. As this graph shows, for much of the period, and particularly during the 1990s, the size of the gap between the season average attendance of the two divisions actually grew.

 

It is worth noting however, that both League 1 and League 2, also starting from a low base have displayed rated of growth more in line with the Premier league, so a mathematical quirk alone is an insufficient explanation for the Championship’s runaway success.

2.)  The Premier league is too expensive

In economic terms the Championship is like a rump steak to the Premier Leagues fillet i.e a cheaper alternative. Whilst this is sure to anger many football fans who will insist that their club is the club, the question has to be asked as to whether being comparatively cheaper than the Premier League has helped the Championship to higher levels of attendance growth.

It is hard to say whether this is the case, particularly as it is unclear just how much cheaper, if at all, the Championship is compared to the Premier League. As this BBC survey shows in terms of some ticket prices, particularly at the lower end of the range there are cases where Championship clubs have higher prices, for instance Man City’s cheapest season ticket is £275, whilst Hull City in the Championship offer their cheapest at £485.

3.) The Premier League lacks competitiveness 

Along with high prices this is another accusation which has been continually leveled at the Premier League, that it is just uncompetitive, that at the start of the season we know who will win it, or who the top four will be, and that we also know who will be relegated. As the Deloitte report acknowledges in the 2010/11 season there was:

a particularly strong correlation in the Premier League between league finishing position and a club’s wage ranking, implying that, all other things being equal, spending more on wages translates to on-pitch success.

Whereas in the Championship, the report adds, the correlation “remains relatively weak” which it suggests is indicative of the competitive nature of the league.

Whilst this leaves little doubt as to the relative competitiveness of both leagues, the actual affect this has on attendances is more of a grey-area. In their book Why England Lose and Other Curious Football Phenomena Explained Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski state that previous research in this area has generated mixed results and they themselves suggest that an unbalanced league can provide more interest. Comparing the Premier League to the much more equal US league, MLS, they argue:

the MLS lacks one of the joys of an unbalanced league; the David v Goliath match. And one reason why fans enjoy those encounters is that surprisingly often, given their respective budgets, David wins.

As someone who counts their most memorable ever match as the time Southampton beat Manchester United 6-3 it is hard to argue with this, though to say the Championship does not have ‘big-teams’ would be to do it an injustice, perhaps it’s success is in its combination of the two; big clubs and a competitive league.

4.) Supply and demand

Ever tried getting hold of a ticket for a Premier League game? It’s not always easy with a number of games selling-out. In the case of sell-outs demand exceeds supply which is in effect capped by stadium size. The solution – increasing stadium size – also isn’t necessarily easy. Notwithstanding the expense there is the need need for planning permission which can often lead to years of wrangling. According to the Deloitte report in 2010/11 average capacity utilisation for the Premier league was 93% whilst the figure for the total Football League stood at a much lower 58%. If supply did match demand for the Premier League it may well be that attendances and attendance growth would be much higher.

Overall – More than a quirk…

Overall  whilst there may be an element of mathematical quirk to the results in the opening graph, this alone does not explain the Championships strong performance. It seems quite possible that a cap on attendances imposed by stadium size has also acted to slow growth in the Premier League, but again the Championship has no more advantage here than League 1, or League  2 clubs which it has also out-performed. Price too (particularly in the current ecomomic climate) along with  competitiveness may also have played a part, along with other factors we have not covered, but overall it seems the Championship has experienced a perfect-storm of factors enabling it to grow at a rate faster than the Premier League. As the Deloitte report states the Championship is the highest revenue generating second-tier league in the world, and that’s more than a mathematical quirk.


For a while now there have been worrying signs that food poverty is becoming an increasing problem in the UK.  This Guardian article reporting on some recent research carried out using a panel of 30 000 UK households highlights one finding as being that the consumption of filling, high-fat, processed foods has grown among households with an annual income below £25 000, which the article uses to raise concerns over nutrition. This took me back to a short literature review on the subject of obesity which I had written for my course last year and which touched on many of the issues which have recently been raised.

Literature review:  Income inequality, social relationships and well-being

 In their book the spirit level Wilkinson and Pickett link income inequality to a range of health and social problems their work forming a response to the puzzle presented by the persistence of social-class gradients in a range of health related measures (Macintyre1997p.735).  The emergence of concerns with these gradients can be seen to coincide with a developing awareness of relative poverty towards the end of the 20th century (see Townsend 1979) whilst similar concerns over health inequalities led in 1977 to the commissioning of the Black Report which despite its marginalisation by an incoming administration is credited as acting as a stimulus and guide for further research into the relationship between social status and health (Smith 1990p.373:Macintyre 1997p.726-730:Marmot 2001 p.1165). One strand of research which took root in the wake of Black was the Psychosocial approach which sought to explain class gradients through an analysis of the relationship between health, social position and stress with particular regard to factors such as self-esteem, social networks and autonomy at work (Macintyre 1997p.736 Brunner 1997 p.1473 Wilkinson 1997 p.593). The work of Wilkinson and Pickett’s seeks to build on the Psychosocial approach by using income inequality to explain differences in these factors between states resulting to observable differences in indicators of health and well-being (Wilkinson & Pickett 2010). Obesity is among the conditions they argue has a correlation with income inequality (Wilkinson & Pickett 2010p.92).

Wilkinson and Pickett discuss several pathways which link a state’s level of income inequality to obesity. These include calorie intake, diet, and the effect of stress in determining food selections and patterns of weight gain (Wilkinson & Pickett 2010p.95-96). They also suggest that considerations of status play a role in determining food selection and implicate the availability of particular types of foods. To illustrate this point they draw on a single source, a series from the Wall Street Journal, providing several examples centring round the consumption of fast-food as a method of demonstrating status, be this financial status or even status as a citizen (p.97-98).  The point underlined by Wilkinson and Pickett is remarkably similar to the suggestion of ethnologist Igor de Garine who in 1987 asserted that

Eating is a form of expression whereby a person in a sense acts out his or her position in a particular society. For this reason, the quest for prestige and distinction is a constant feature of the dynamic of food selection (p.5-6)

It would appear however, that beyond the boundaries of anthropology and ethnology such insights have failed to make an impact on academic work on diet and obesity. A large amount of the current research instead coming in the form of studies which have sought to establish correlations between measures of socio-economic status and various forms of dietary behaviour often putting forward the higher costs of nutrient rich foods as an explanation for observed social-class based differences (see Darmon & Drewnoski 2008: Giskes et al 2009). There has tended to be less emphasis on the meanings people attach to the food they choose to consume and how this relates to conceptions of social status. The role which status considerations plays in food choices have however, received more attention in the mass-media, in a piece cited by Wilkinson and Pickett (p.91), Polly Toynbee suggests that high inequality results in unmet aspirations leading to the poor giving up upon the high-class ideal of thinness in favour of seeking pleasure from eating whilst In a Newsweek article in which Pickett makes a cameo appearance Lisa Miller contrasts the ‘foodie’ culture of wealthier Americans  with what has become termed as the ‘food insecurity’ endured by the poorest who “often eat what they can: highly calorific, mass produced foods like pizza and packaged cakes that fill them up quickly”.

The mass-production of foods is central to numerous structural accounts of obesity such as the impact on, in particular Western diets, of the globalised, subsidised, industrialised food industry which ensures high profits for production of comparatively cheap, energy dense foodstuffs (Lawrence 2008:Delpeuch 2009) Such accounts often locate the fast-food industry within this wider agri-industrial-complex linking its expansion and global spread from an epicentre located in the USA with increased obesity rates in both the developed and developing world (Schlosser 2002: Delpeuch 2009). Interestingly Delpeuch (p.47) also points to the initial take-up of fast food by high-status groups in the developing world, whilst Schlosser presents an alternative explanation for the rise in obesity levels in post-reunification East Germany to that of increased inequality posited by Wilkinson & Pickett (p.101); the construction of East Germany’s first McDonalds branch in 1990 (p.229)

One focus of research which has emerged from the structural accounts is a number of studies seeking to analyse what have been called ‘community nutrition environments’ (Thornton et al p.1423). Some research has suggested there is a link between the concentration of fast-food outlets and neighbourhood-level characteristics such as measures of neighbourhood socioeconomic status (Reidpath et al 2002) or ethnicity (Molaodi et al 2010). There is however much debate as whilst some work supports a link between proximity to fast food outlets and increased odds of obesity (Currie et al 2010p.35) other work disputes the relationship between distribution of fast-food outlets and obesity (Pearce et al 2009 p.196:Thornton et al 2010p.1423) however, intriguingly  Pearce et al suggest their New Zealand based study may have drawn different conclusions to research situated in the U.S  was because of  “lower levels of urban residential segregation” in New Zealand (p.196)

Whilst acknowledging some of the factors put forward by the structural accounts; chiefly availability of “cheap, energy dense foods” (2004p.673 2010 p.96) Wilkinson and Pickett are generally dismissive of their explanatory potential (2004p.673) One work however, seeks to build a bridge between the two positions. Using welfare state regime types in their multiple-regression analysis Offer et al (2010) find that liberal regimes experience the highest levels of obesity. They suggest that this is due to high levels of insecurity, but they also find that low prices of fast-food are lowest within the liberal regimes compared to other regime types (p.301). They suggest that overall any explanations for differences between regime types may lie in the shared “historical and cultural roots” linking states within a regime cluster (p.306). The outright dismissal of such historical and cultural factors is indeed one aspect of Wilkinson & Pickett’s work which has attracted critique (Saunders 2010 p.117) Other research however, stresses the importance of both historical and cultural factors in shaping food preferences; Historian Steve Penfold charting the interplay between economics and cultural meanings which saw the donut becoming entrenched as a symbol of Canadian national identity (Penfold 2008). Perhaps this points to what may be a fertile area for future research on obesity.

Bibliography:

Brunner, E. (1997) Socioeconomic determinants of health: Stress and the biology of inequality British Medical Journal 314: 1468-1472

Currie, J, Della Vigna, S, Moretti, E & Pathania, V (2010) The Effect of Fast Food Restaurants on Obesity and Weight Gain American Economic Journal: Economic Policy 2: 32-63

Darmon, N. & Drewnowski, A (2008) Does social class predict diet quality? American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 87: 1107-1117

Delpeuch, F. Maire, B. Monnier, E, Holdsworth, M (2009) Globesity: A Planet Out of Control? Earthscan: London

Garine, I. de. (1987) Food Culture and Society The Courier 1987 40: 4-7

Giskes, K. Avendano, M. Brug, J. & Kunst, A. E (2009) A systematic review of studies on socioeconomic inequalities in dietary intakes associated with weight gain and overweight/obesity conducted among European adults Obesity Reviews 11: 413-429

Lawrence, F (2008) Eat Your Heart Out: Why the food business is bad for your health London: Penguin

Macintyre, S. (1997)The Black Report And Beyond What Are The Issues? Social Science and Medicine 44 (6) 723-745

Malaodi, O. R., Harding, S, Leyland, A.H, Kearns, A (2010) Area deprivation, ethnic density and fast food outlets, supermarkets and physical activity structures in England Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health Vol. 64

Miller, Lisa (2010) Divided We Eat: As more of us indulge our passion for local, organic delicacies, a growing number of Americans don’t have enough nutritious food to eat. How we can bridge the gap Newsweek 29th November 2010

Offer, A. Pechey, R. & Ulijaszek, S.  (2010) Obesity under affluence varies by welfare regimes: The effect of fast food insecurity, and inequality Economics and Human Biology (8) 297-308

Pearce, J. Hiscock, R. Blakely, T. & Witten, K. (2009) A national study of the association between neighbourhood access to fast-food outlets and the diet and weight of local residents Health & Place 15: 193-197

Penfold, S (2008) The Donut a Canadian history  Toronto: University of Toronto Press

Pickett, K. Kelly, S., Brunner, E. Lobstein, T. Wilkinson, R. G (2005) Wider income gaps, wider waistbands? An ecological study of obesity and income inequality Journal of epidemiology and Community Health 59: 670-674

Reidpath, D. D. Burns, C. Garrard, J. Mahoney, M. & Townsend, M. (2002) An ecological study of the relationship between social and environmental determinants of obesity Health & Place 8: 141-145

Saunders, P. (2010) Beware False Prophets: Equality, the good society and the spirit level. Policy exchange: London

Schlosser, E.(2002) Fast Food Nation: What the all-american meal is doing to the world London: Penguin

Thornton, L, E. Crawford, D. A, Ball, K.(2010) Neighbourhood-socioeconomic variation in women’s diet: the role of nutrition environments European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 64: 1423-1432

Townsend, P. (1979) Poverty in the United Kingdom : a survey of household resources and standards of living Harmondsworth: Penguin

Toynbee, Polly (2004) Inequality is fattening: People will get thinner only when they have things that are worth staying thin for – self-esteem, social status and jobs The Guardian 28th May 2004

Wilkinson, R. & Pickett, K (2010) The Spirit Level: Why equality is better for everyone London: Penguin

Wilkinson, R. (1997) Socioeconomic determinants of health: Health inequalities: relative or absolute material standards? British Medical Journal 314: 591-595


Crowded tube trains – a recipe for anxiety?

It’s 9.30am, just a little over a week ago, and I’ve just managed to squeeze myself onto a packed tube train at London Bridge station – this being the third train to arrive since I took my place on the platform. Grasping a rail to steady myself as the train jerks along I find myself in the kind of close proximity to total strangers which is normally reserved for family, close friends, or else lovers.  A man nearby sneezes leading to the people crushed up against him to wince. Thankfully for me this journey is a one-off, but for the majority of passengers in their smart business attire this must be part of their daily routine, squished together like a glutenous mass of red-blood cells fueling the body of some greater being. At this moment I start wondering to myself ‘just why are Londoners’ so anxious?’

I know Londoners are particularly anxious, because when asked by the Office for National statistics ‘Overall, how anxious did you feel yesterday?’ where nought is ‘not at all’ and ten is ‘completely’  44.5% of Londoners provided a ‘high, or very high’ rating of between 4 and 10 compared to 41.8% in the next highest region, the North East, and 35.5% in the lowest, Northern Ireland. The question was asked as part of the attempt to measure national well-being and featured alongside other questions in which respondents were asked to rate their overall life satisfaction, the extent to which they felt the things they did in their life were worthwhile and their happiness the previous day – all of which Londoners tended to provide a greater amount of poor ratings compared to the rest of the UK.

So why the anxiety? What makes London so different from the rest of the UK? It can’t be just the impact of being crammed on the tube – though that may well explain some of the anxiety. London is particularly prosperous relative to the rest of the UK, but can that really explain why people in London are more anxious? One explanation could be in the way that prosperity is divided; London is by far the most unequal place in the UK with the ratio between the hourly earnings of the 99th and 1st percentile, based on 2011 figures, being 16.2. By contrast the most equal, Wales, has a ratio less than half London’s at 7.0.

Source: ONS. Well-being data Annual Population Survey, Office for National Statistics data from April 2011 – March 2012. Income data for April 2011 from Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings.

In their book, The Spirit Level; Why Equality is Better for Everyone Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett argue that though inequality is not the cause of what have been rising levels of anxiety..

Greater Inequality seems to heighten people’s social evaluation anxieties by increasing the importance of social status

They continue that the more the inequality, the more status competition and the higher the levels status anxiety, but were this to be the case we would expect to see a relationship between inequality and the levels of anxiety and a regional level, at least, this appears not to be the case as this scatterplot shows:

Source: ONS

Of course even a fairly strongly correlated result would be far from conclusive owing to the small sample size, but going back to the data The South East which has the  second highest inequality ratio of 9.6 had a fairly middling proportion of people recording high, or very high responses to the anxiety question, 38.8% – lower for instance that the much more equal North East (7.6 & 41.8%).

Perhaps however, it is something else about London. In her seminal work Saskia Sassen (2001), who famously analysed increased income inequality and polarisation in what she termed ‘global cities’,  observed about London:

As in New York, a distinct lifestyle has emerged, and there is a sufficiently critical mass of young, high-income workers engaged in high levels of consumption that it makes itself felt in certain parts of London and the region. New, elegant shops and restaurants – and sharp increases in the prices of housing – manifest the new lifestyle. There has also been high-income gentrification of some parts of London, including areas of inner London once inhabited by lower-income people, especially minorities. (p.272-3)

What Sassen is pointing to is that high levels of inequality have helped to shape the city, both physically and culturally, creating an urban form which may well be more conducive to the sort of status anxiety mentioned by Wilkinson and Pickett which may in turn explain its inhabitants higher than average levels of anxiety. Finally the tube disgorges me at Old Street and thankful and relieved I emerge into the grey morning and gulp down the (relatively) fresh air on the surface. Maybe it is the tube after all, or else as they say on the underground, mind the gap.

Bibliography

Office for National Statistics (2012) First ONS Annual Experimental Subjective Well-being Results 24th July 2012

Sassen, S. (2001) The Global City: New York, London, Tokyo, (2nd edition) Oxford; Princeton University Press

Wilkinson, R. & Pickett, K. (2010) The Spirit Level; Why Equality is Better for Everyone London:Penguin