Poverty gap growing in affluent cities: One in four children in Oxford now suffers deprivation. Rosie Waterhouse reports

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THE GAP between rich and poor in British cities has widened over the past 13 years, with the polarisation rising in traditionally more affluent areas such as Oxford, where one in four children lives in poverty.

Research published today, comparing poverty and wealth in 1981 and 1994, reveals a stark contrast between poor and better-off neighbourhoods within the same towns.

A study by academics at Oxford University looks at Oxford - with its popular image of dreaming spires - and at Oldham, the Greater Manchester cotton town.

The research shows that both cities now have a similar 'poverty profile' with at least one in four of the total population of both towns living in families receiving a means-tested benefit and one in seven in families dependent on income support.

The gap between poor and rich families in Oxford widened in the decade after 1981 with growth in the number of low-income households and also in the number of more prosperous ones. This polarisation was much greater in Oldham, but more children - one in four - were living in poverty in Oxford compared with one in five in Oldham. In Oldham, prosperous neighbourhoods have 2 to 3 per cent of residents in families dependent on income support; the poorer ones 40 per cent. In Oxford the 'best' neighbourhood had 5 per cent of its population in families receiving Income Support, whereas the poorest had 28 per cent.

The proportion of households on low incomes has increased since 1981 in both towns, but in Oxford this has increased more sharply since 1991. There was a 30 per cent increase in income support claimants in Oxford between 1991 and mid-1993 with single non-pensioners accounting most of the growth.

Since 1981 the better-off neighbourhoods have improved their position, notably by a relative increase in their housing asset values.

(Photographs omitted)