Community

Graffiti streetProfessor Jenny Pearce at Bradford University found that giving people a voice in improving their neighbourhoods builds self esteem and citizenship as well as material improvements. Riots are often provoked by people feeling shut out of decisions and control.

In contrast, local decision-making motivates residents to get involved, and evidence shows many local problems can be solved or limited, according to research funded at the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion.

Research by Professor Steve Machin and the Centre for Economic Performance found that criminal activity is negatively associated with higher levels of education, and that improving education can yield significant social benefits and be a key policy tool in the drive to reduce crime.

Research for the Basic Skills Agency using the UK Birth Cohort Study found that having poor literacy (for men) and poor numeracy (for women) directly increased the risk of offending and repeated offending. Poor literacy scores in early life had a statistically significant relationship with the number of times men reported being stopped and questioned by police and arrested.

Evidence from the Millennium Cohort Study showed that parental involvement in schooling for a child aged between seven and 16 is a more powerful force than family background, size of family and level of parental education. Parental interest in their child's education has four times more influence on educational attainment by age 16 than socio-economic background.

The British Social Attitudes Survey shows that there is high and growing public concern about income inequality, which is seen as having negative impacts – 63 per cent believe large differences in people’s incomes contribute to crime and other social problems.

On the role of inequalities more generally Professor Andy Green, Institute of Education, has demonstrated that increasing inequality and declining social mobility in the UK is correlated with the erosion of civil attitudes and social cohesion. Analysis of the long-term trends in measures of social and political trust show steep declines in the UK since 1959.

In well-known research that was not funded by ESRC Professors Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett found internationally, including the USA, that where levels of income inequality are high, so too is crime and lack of trust, while greater trust leads to co-operation - such as donating time and money to helping other people.

Research by Dr Sarah Birch at Essex University suggests that the public consider politicians as a 'class apart', and that this perception was more influential in causing unrest than poverty or moral values.

Professor Andrew Sayer at Lancaster University has investigated the moral influencers on behaviours, suggesting a more complex picture which is affected by social structures and economic pressure. The findings also suggest that we cannot understand how people negotiate inequalities if we ignore their moral sentiments and reasoning.