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Research Questions

Crime and justice inequalities: people, places and systems

Policewoman and child illustration

Over the last three decades, there has been a large fall in crime in Scotland, which is associated with a large reduction in both offending and victimisation amongst youth people.  There have also been significant changes to policing and justice system processes in Scotland which have impacted on the lives of young people, including new legislation governing the use of stop and search and the introduction of new diversionary measures within youth justice. 

Why do some people remain resilient to social inequalities?

People with refuse bags cleaning a park

Research on social inequalities tends to compare the chances of individuals from different social backgrounds and make assumptions about their long term success or failure on a particular outcome. For example, social mobility research typically examines the relationship between family socioeconomic status and labour market destinations, the hypothesis being that those from more deprived backgrounds will fare less well (Breen 2004; Paterson and Iannelli 2007). Much less attention has been given to studying the life-course of those individuals from less advantaged social backgrounds who manage to break the vicious cycle of social reproduction (‘resilient people’) and become upwardly mobile, whether in terms of education, social class or labour market outcomes.

The drivers of inequality in the exposure to crime

Jagged metal fence in a council estate

Inequality in exposure to crime has increased despite a large fall in crime over time, as it has not fallen at the same time, in the same places or at the same rate for everyone. Reducing these crime inequalities requires improved policing policies, which can usefully be informed by better data.
This research area is focused on four inter-related questions:

•    Has exposure to crime and disorder changed across space and through time?
•    What are the drivers of crime inequalities?
•    How do models of risk assessment and deployment impact crime inequalities?

These questions have been shaped through dialogue with Understanding Inequalities research partners (including data providers) to address key policy challenges in Scotland and internationally.

Inequality and segregation in China

Still from Chinese segregation video showing GDP growth in a graph

Research on segregation and inequality has tended to focus on cities in Europe and North America. However, in recent years, there has been growing interest in these issues in the Chinese context. Economic liberalization, rapid industrial restructuring, the enormous growth of cities, and internal migration, have all reshaped the country profoundly. To explore these changes, we have teamed up with researchers in China to investigate how it compares with the European and North American experience of segregation and inequality and what lessons can be learned. We have also helped pioneer the application of robust research methods to measuring and understanding segregation and inequality in the Chinese context. Given the continued rise of China’s significance in the world and its recent declaration of war on poverty, our work offers a timely contribution, guiding future directions for policymakers and researchers.

The changing geography of inequality

Illustration of houses

Geography matters. Where we live affects our access to education, amenities, employment opportunities. It also affects our exposure to crime and pollution. So inequality is not just about income, it's also about our access to opportunities and exposures to risks. Changes to the geography of where people live, or to the patterns of crime, pollution, amenities, employment and educational opportunities, can profoundly affect the true inequalities in society.

How do inequalities in childhood affect us now and in our later lives?

Young children clapping along to a song

Most studies of inequalities have focused on outcomes in young and later adulthood in specific national contexts (chiefly the US and the larger Western European countries). In contrast, the long-term consequences of early years experiences and how these experiences are shaped by institutional factors has been relatively underexplored. How best to conceptualise and measure inequalities remains subject to debate, with many studies confining attention to a single measure of social background, such as parental education, on the basis of data availability. Furthermore, the increasing recognition that social groups have diverse experiences across multiple contexts has not been matched by empirical analyses of the interplay between different aspects of social background in shaping outcomes. National birth and child cohort studies provide rich data on the lives of children in their early and middle years, but to date these have been rarely used to explore the development of inequalities across the life course or to analyse cross-national differences.