Social mix: improved local services through social capital?

My PhD looks at the relationship between social mix and local services in Scottish neighbourhoods. The main aim is to examine how access to and quality of local services vary with neighbourhood composition and, secondly, whether the access to services is related to an areas’ social capital.

To obtain measures of social composition, I have classified neighbourhoods through cluster analysis using Scottish Census data. This typology allows me to observe whether social mix, defined as mixed tenure and socio-economic status, contributes to the variation in the access and quality of local services.

In order to explore this, the data is linked to the Scottish Household Survey. The survey includes questions on residents’ perception of the access and quality of local services, ranging from schools and hospitals to shops and leisure facilities. A further aspect is looking at which variations in service access and quality are most closely related to neighbourhood composition.

Furthermore, using the SHS data from 1999 onwards allows me to observe temporal changes in local service satisfaction. New Labour increased spending on public services, and therefore it will be interesting to see the variations regarding services over the New Labour period.

There is some evidence that middle-class areas tend to muster more social resources than poorer areas. Further to this, areas with low resources may not have social capital needed to vouch for the improvement of their services. The aim of this research is related to local government budget cuts, which have impacted provision of public services and raises concerns about the distributional impact of the welfare state. The question arises whether resources are aimed at those most in need, as public services are a particularly important source of wellbeing for low-income households.

In the next stage, indicators for social capital from the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health and Wellbeing survey are related to the area typology and observed across the Greater Glasgow area. Social capital in this study refers to social contacts and attitudes in the neighbourhood. Finally, the service data are linked to the estimated social capital of the areas in order to distinguish variation according to level of mix; the main question being whether mixed areas are able to gather more social capital in order to improve aspects of their service provision. However, it is also important to examine who benefits from services in mixed areas; while the better-off may have influence over services, do the improvements in services correspond to the needs of everyone?

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/JamesPharaon

Policy relevance: 
This research will be of interest to practitioners, policy makers and analysts involved with development and improvement of public services and welfare provision in Scotland.
Researchers: 
Date: 
February, 2017

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