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Research Themes

There are many types of inequality that affect people’s opportunities and life chances. These include inequality across education, employment, health and well-being, housing, crime and criminal justice and exposure to environmental risks and benefits. These forms of inequality can be affected by characteristics such as our ethnicity, religion, gender, age and social class.

What is not well understood is how these different forms of inequality interact and what impact this has over the course of our lives. There are also significant gaps in our knowledge about how and why inequality varies across different geographical areas and social eras.

Our research cuts across these often overlapping forms of inequality and explores how they vary geographically and how their effects can become spatially concentrated. We will also examine the extent to which inequalities remain constant or change over time for both people and places.

Below are some of the areas we will be exploring, with an outline of the research questions we aim to answer.


Illustration of the coronavirus in red on a black background


If there is one fact that is widely agreed in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic, it is that it has exacerbated inequalities across multiple dimensions of life.  A key aim of the Understanding Inequalities project is to contribute to knowledge about the causes and consequences of inequality. Therefore, the specific impact of Covid-19 on individuals, families and communities is of significant relevance to our work.  

Mother and son holding hands


Inequality can affect people of all ages; however, there are some stages of the life-course at which inequality can have a particularly significant impact.  Children and young people are often more affected by, and subject to, inequality than adults and they are often the least able to defend themselves against it. 

Car window smashed by car thief


With this research we will be focussing on changing patterns of crime and victimisation across time and space. This work will have a particular focus on the development of indicators and risk assessment tools for reducing harm and vulnerability, taking into account the identified drivers and patterns of crime. 

People with hands raised in lecture


Education has the potential to reduce inequalities and promote social mobility. However, children from lower socio-economic backgrounds continue to do significantly worse at school than those from higher socio-economic backgrounds.

Workers in an open plan office


Employment is a crucial sphere of life which provides access to financial and social resources important for the quality of life and well-being of individuals and their families.

Industrial Chimneys with smoke raising


The areas where people live have an impact on a number of quality-of-life factors. This includes environment; exposure to air pollution, noise pollution or proximities to contaminated land, as well as proximity to green spaces and good outdoor and natural amenities.

Students chatting in the library


Fifty years after the Race Relations Act 1965, people from ethnic minority backgrounds still face barriers in access to education, justice and the labour market, resulting in social/economic exclusion and tensions within and between communities.

chalk drawing of male and female on balance scales


Despite significant efforts over the decades, there are still many areas of social life in which men and women are not equal. There are many examples of unequal treatment within the labour market, health systems, justice systems and schools which are based wholly or partly on a person’s gender.

New houses being built in a new development


Housing affects inequality in a number of important ways. Differences in house prices across neighbourhoods limit where poor househods can live.

Criminal with handcuffs behind back


Social inequalities are created and reproduced by a wide range of social determinants, which can change over time.

Dad with two children walking hand in hand to the bus stop


In our modern societies, opportunities and rewards are still unequally distributed across different social groups (e.g. between women and men, people from different families of origins, between migrants and nationals).

Block of high rise flats


Many aspects of inequality derive from where people live, work, grow up, go to school and retire. These spatial inequalities are sometimes referred to as a “postcode lottery” – people living in different neighbourhoods have very different life outcomes even though those neighbourhoods are in the same area of the city.

Sad boy sitting on a bark bench


Our research on well-being emphasises that inequalities in individuals’ overall quality of life matter as much as their economic and financial well-being. Some vulnerable groups are exposed from their earlier years to a set of disadvantages and stressful life events; and these are likely to impact on outcomes in relation to their health and socio-emotional well-being.