Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Re-thinking the indices of multiple deprivation (for England): A review and exploration of alternative/complementary area-based indicator systems

Smith, Ian; Green, Elizabeth; Whittard, Damian; Ritchie, Felix

Re-thinking the indices of multiple deprivation (for England): A review and exploration of alternative/complementary area-based indicator systems Thumbnail


Profile Image

Ian Smith
Senior Lecturer in Economics


Power to Change was established by the Big Lottery as an organisation whose mission is to fund community businesses and through such investment make an impact on the most disadvantaged places in England. Through setting its mission to target the most disadvantaged places, the Big Lottery specified that the means of spatially targeting these areas was to be the English Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD). The English IMD indicator has been designed to help focus government spending and is generally considered to be an example of good practice as a ‘second generation’ area-based indicator of multiple deprivation. However, it is not perfect and non-governmental bodies (such as Power to Change) should think carefully about how they use it.
The Bristol Centre for Economics and Finance (BCEF) of the University of the West of England (UWE) were commissioned by Power to Change to review what insights on disadvantage that the current English IMD offers us, secondly how these insights fit with the mission of Power to Change and thirdly of ‘good practice’ in relation to filling in the gaps between the insights of the existing IMD and the mission of Power to Change.
The English IMD needs to be thought of not as a single measure of disadvantage but as an indicator system that identifies disadvantaged places across multiple dimensions. This review suggests that the use of the top-line IMD indicator may not be appropriate for Power to Change’s mission but the flexible use of the English IMD indicator system tailored to Power to Change’s mission is appropriate for the organisation. Currently Power to Change appears to mainly focus on the top-line IMD indicator and thus is not using the IMD indicator system in a way that squeezes the most useful insights out of it.
We recommend:
1. That Power to Change use the English IMD system to identify a form of multiple deprivation that best fits the hypothesis of change of the organisation from the existing components of the IMD (i.e. construct a Power to Change version of the IMD from existing components of the IMD). This flexible use of the IMD system will assist spatial targeting in the Liverpool city-region and the County of Suffolk. These are places in which Power to Change is currently working.
2. That Power to Change ensure that all people involved in the evaluation of community business applications to Power to Change are briefed as to the strengths and weaknesses of the top-line IMD and the rationale for the Power to Change versions of the IMD.
3. Further research is required on spatial targeting in relation to:
a. better understanding the support context and local economic context for community businesses (at local authority area level); and,
b. developing a ‘community vulnerability to environmental issues’ indicator to better understand the interaction of environmental disadvantage (and environmental quality) and community business impact.
Finally, we would recommend that Power to Change thinks about building an evaluative framework for understanding the impact of community businesses that does not depend upon the IMD indicator system. Given the stated objectives of Power to Change (to support and facilitate community businesses as a sector of the economy), the strategy of collaborative enquiry with community businesses would be a fruitful way of moving forward. Working with community businesses there is a need to better understand the dynamics and impacts of the community business sectors (already one of the strategic objectives of Power to Change).


Smith, I., Green, E., Whittard, D., & Ritchie, F. (2018). Re-thinking the indices of multiple deprivation (for England): A review and exploration of alternative/complementary area-based indicator systems. London: Power to Change

Report Type Research Report
Acceptance Date Jul 1, 2018
Online Publication Date Jul 1, 2018
Publication Date Jul 1, 2018
Deposit Date May 17, 2021
Publicly Available Date May 18, 2021
Public URL


You might also like

Downloadable Citations