The regional geography of poverty, austerity and inequality in Europe


Europe is currently suffering a deep political and economic crisis following years of turmoil and austerity measures that have disproportionately and brutally hit the most disadvantaged regions and citizens across most of the continent. At the same time, there has been a revival of nationalisms and divisions in this part of the world that, a decade ago, seemed to be united in diversity and moving towards ever-closer union. Concentrated poverty near to riches and profound spatial inequality have long been persistent features of all European countries, with disparities often being most stark within the most affluent cities and regions, such as London. In other parts of Europe levels of inequality and poverty have been reducing and are often much lower. However, the severe economic crisis and austerity measures have led, in many cases, to an enhancement of existing disparities. The following eight maps show how the regional geography has changed in the light of these developments:

Analysing the regional geography of poverty, austerity and inequality in Europe: Mapping GDP
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Multiple Dimensions of Poverty

Poverty and global development are not only on the agenda at the World Economic Forum in Davos. But despite positive trends being observed in the aftermath of the Millennium Development Goals poverty still persists.
As a successor to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), the United Nations announced a set of 17 new Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) relating to international development. Still on top of the agenda remains the issue of poverty. Here the new goal is to ‘end poverty in all its forms everywhere’ by 2030, meaning to ‘eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere, currently measured as people living on less than $1.90 a day’ and to ‘reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions’.
There are trends in past decades that indicate major improvements in tackling the problem of global poverty. In relative terms, the original MDG goal of halving extreme poverty between 1990 and 2015 has been met. In developing regions, people in extreme poverty now make up 14 per cent of the population there, while most recent figures and estimates suggest that still over two billion people globally live on less than $2 a day, a measure used to measure ‘moderate’ poverty. This figure is also used as a base for the main cartogram below. The map modifies the size of each country according to the total number of people there who live on up to $2 a day according to the most recent available estimates. In addition, the colour shading uses information from the 2015 Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) to highlight the percentage of the population that is multi-dimensionally poor.

Mapping World Religions: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism
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Changing Poverty and Wealth in England

England is increasingly divided between the rich and the poor, with a 60% increase in poor households and a 33% increase in wealthy households. This has come at a time – 1980 to 2010 – when the number of middle-income households went down by 27%.” In a Londonmapper report that was featured in today’s Observer newspaper we showed how the groups of poor and wealthy and the remaining ‘middle’ have changed in England over the past three decades.
London's Changing Wealth: Poor, Wealthy and the Middle
These two charts, showing the absolute and relative changes in the number of households in each group, highlight that poor and middle households have come to being almost equally large groups in the British capital in the period, with a clear trend in growing numbers of poor and wealthy households and a shrinking middle part. These polarising trends of growing inequality are not only prevalent in London, but also continue in the rest of the country. The following cartogram visualisation uses the absolute changes between 1980 and 2010 and shows how the increase in poverty and wealth compares across the regions of England and the Borough of London and looks at the decline in the middle in the same way. How the middle is squeezed out of London becomes particularly apparent in these images, as London dominates much of the map while growing numbers of poor and wealthy households are more evenly distributed across the country:

Visualising England's Changing Wealth(click for larger version)

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Child Poverty in London

The Campaign to End Child Poverty has today published new figures showing that London contains 14 out of the top 20 local authorities with the highest rates of child poverty across the UK.

Child Poverty Ratios in the London Boroughs, 2014
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Unequal wealth: Income distribution gaps in Europe

The Social Atlas of EuropeIncome inequality has become a wider acknowledged issue in the wealthy parts of the world which is no longer restricted to academic debate. A study commissioned by the IMF (Berg et al, 2011) acknowledges that “the trade-off between efficiency and equality may not exist” (IMF), referring to inequality one possible result of unsustainable growth. Europe has seen a steep rise in economic inequalities which have a huge impact of the people in the European nations. An OECD working paper (Bonesmo Fredriksen, 2012) states that “poor growth performance over the past decades in Europe has increased concerns for rising income dispersion and social exclusion”. It also concludes, that “towards the end of the 2000s the income distribution in Europe was more unequal than in the average OECD country, albeit notably less so than in the United States”, stressing that within-country inequalities are just as important if not more important than the between-country dimension. Both, however, are relevant in the current economic crisis and the again-growing divisions on the continent. As one of the reasons for these changes, the OECD paper states that “large income gains among the 10% top earners appear to be a main driver behind this evolution”.
The following two maps compare the share of income of the richest and poorest 10% of the population in Europe based on national-level data published by Eurostat (2013) (map legend ranked by quartiles). To show the data from a people’s perspective, the map uses a population cartogram as a base which shows the countries resized according to their absolute population. The maps give a look at how disparities exist not only between the countries, but also within each of them by showing, how (un)equal the distribution of income is in every country:

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A mapping sequence for malaria and mosquito nets in Africa

Roll Back MalariaThe upcoming annual World Malaria Day on the 25th of April is one of the most visible international activities to tackle the problem of a disease that today is mainly a problem on the African continent. Beyond that day, activists from public sector as well as from many private organisations have regular meetings to find solutions for a disease that UNICEF describes as both preventable and curable. Continue reading