Data blog: Deprivation in Cereal Killer Cafe neighbourhood

What do new deprivation figures reveal about the changing nature of the east London neighbourhood at the centre of a row over gentrification?

Brick Lane: location of Cereal Killer Cafe (picture by Michael Duxbury, Flickr)
Brick Lane: location of Cereal Killer Cafe (picture by Michael Duxbury, Flickr)

Earlier this month, the Cereal Killer Cafe in Shoreditch hit the headlines for being attacked by a large crowd of anti-gentrification activists, carrying pigs' heads and torches. "We don’t want luxury flats that no one can afford, we want genuinely affordable housing. We don’t want pop-up gin bars or brioche buns, we want community," the Facebook page of protest event said.

So what does data tell us about the changing nature of the neighbourhood that the cafe is located within?

The Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) 2015, published this week, ranks 32,844 neighbourhoods in England - the technical term for these small geographical zones is "lower-layer super output areas" (LSOAs) - by levels of deprivation, with scores determined by a basket of 37 separate indicators.

The Cereal Killer Cafe sits within a LSOA called "Tower Hamlets 009D", which in 2015 is ranked the 7,110th most deprived neighbourhood in England (where 1 is the most deprived), according to this week's statistics. This means that the small area currently sits just outside the 20 per cent most deprived small areas in the country.

But how has deprivation in this neighbourhood changed over time?

One really interesting trend to emerge from the latest data is that four east London boroughs - including Tower Hamlets, home to the Cereal Killer Cafe's LSOA - have dropped out of a list of the 20 most deprived local authority areas in England, having become "relatively less deprived".

At the LSOA level, a comparison with previous sets of IMD figures appears to show that the Cereal Killer Cafe's neighbourhood is becoming relatively less deprived compared to other LSOAs in England. The previous set of deprivation figures, from 2010, rank the LSOA as the 3,167th most deprived neighbourhood, meaning that, in five years, the neighbourhood has moved from being within the 10 per cent most deprived LSOAs in the country, to outside the 20 per cent most deprived.

But the area was identified as even more deprived than this by earlier sets of statistics. In 2007, the LSOA's ranking was 2,518, and in 2004 it was 1,711 (see chart, below).

There are a few caveats to mention here, not least that the Department for Communities and Local Government is clear that the IMD figures are a measure of deprivation, not affluence. The index is designed specifically to measure aspects of deprivation, such as people on low incomes in receipt of benefits. A low deprivation ranking may not necessarily mean high levels of affluence, therefore.

Meanwhile, changes in rankings over time may not necessarily mean absolute changes in levels of deprivation in a particular neighbourhood - these changes are only relative to other neighbourhoods. There have also been some small changes to the basket of indicators used to measure deprivation, and some changes to the boundaries of LSOAs, meaning that it is difficult to determine real changes in deprivation from the rankings and scores over time.

Nevertheless, the deprivation figures indicate that there has been considerable change in this particular east London neighbourhood since 2004. While some may be concerned about gentrification  - and these fears should not be dismissed - perhaps these figures point to a more positive story.

Part of the changing picture is no doubt a result of population churn, but a considerable improvement across a range of indicators designed to put a spotlight on deprivation is surely something to be celebrated.

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