Levels of geography
SUBJECTS ON THIS PAGE:
The hierarchy of geographic levels
The diagram below shows, in hierarchical fashion, the main geographic levels in the UK, together with how many there are of each. The boxes are highlighted in yellow are those that are mainly used in this website.
- The distinction between upper and lower tier local authorities only applies to England. In those parts of England which have two tiers of local authority, the upper tier is a ‘county’ and the lower tier is a ‘district’. In those parts which only have one tier, it is known as a ‘unitary’. Some services (e.g. education and social services) are the responsibility of upper tier authorities whilst others (e.g. housing) are the responsibility of lower tier authorities.
- The geographic levels of ‘super output area’ and ‘output area’ were invented around the time of the 2001 Census to provide a consistent geography which a) does not change over time and b) where the population of each area is similar. From an analytic perspective, the ‘super output area’ geography basically replaces the ‘ward’ geography, as the latter meets neither of the criteria above.
- The ‘lower super output area’ (or LSOA) level 1 is the geography at which the various country Indices of Deprivation are estimated and published.
- The ‘middle super output area’ (or MSOA) level 2 geography has historically not been used very much but may be in the future as it is the level at which education statistics are increasingly being produced.
The general approach to the presentation of geographic data on this website is as follows:
- In graphs, to present variations at the level immediately below that of the country. For the UK, this means regions. For Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, it means local authorities.
- In maps, to present the data at the lowest geography that it is available for. Depending on the subject, this can mean anything from lower tier local authorities to output areas.
In broad terms:
- At the regional level: most survey data is available at a regional level. As discussed in the page of survey analysis, however, the sample sizes in some surveys mean that analysis using this data is sometimes somewhat unreliable.
- At the local authority level: most survey data is not available at a local authority level. This is partly because of small sample sizes and partly because, for supposed data disclosure reasons, the local authorities are generally suppressed in the publicly available versions of the survey datasets. The major exceptions are the Annual Population Survey and Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings. By contrast, most administrative data is available at a local authority level and, because it is generally a complete count, does not usually suffer from small sample size problems.
- At the super output area or ward level: apart from the 2001 Census, the only relevant data that is regularly available at a super output area level is out-of-work benefits plus some educational data. Note that, although the various Indices of Deprivation are at a lower super output area level, a) they are largely driven by older versions of the benefits data and b) much of their other data is ‘modelled’ rather than real.3
|Section||Dataset||Level of data||Relevance to this website|
|Access to Services||Combined Road Distance to Services Indicator||yes||no||yes||No|
|Early Years and Nurseries||yes||yes||yes||No|
|General Practices / Surgeries||yes||yes||yes||No|
|Legal Help and Help at Court Claimants||yes||no||yes||No|
|Publicly Funded Legal Services||yes||yes||yes||No|
|Vehicle Licence Data||no||yes||no||No|
|Crime and Safety||Fire and Rescue Service: All Incidents Attended||no||no||yes||No|
|Fire and Rescue Service: Fires Attended||yes||no||yes||No|
|Economic Deprivation||County Court Judgments - Personal Consumer Debt||no||no||yes||Partial||No (latest data is for 2004)||8% of MSOAs have no data|
|Education, Skills and Training||Combined National Curriculum Assessments (Key Stages 2, 3 & 4)||yes||no||yes||Yes||No (latest data is for 2003)||Yes|
|Further Education Success, Retention and Achievement Rates||yes||no||yes||Partial||No (latest data is 2003/04)||Yes|
|GCSE and Equivalent Results for Young People||yes||no||yes||Yes||Yes||57% of LSOAs and 16% of MSOAs have no data|
|Home Student Enrolments on Higher Education Courses at Publicly Funded Higher Education Institutions||no||yes||no||No|
|National Curriculum Assessments at Key Stage 1||yes||no||yes||Partial||Yes||56% of LSOAs and 10% of MSOAs have no data|
|National Curriculum Assessments at Key Stage 2||yes||no||yes||Yes||Yes||52% of LSOAs and 5% of MSOAs have no data|
|National Curriculum Assessments at Key Stage 3||yes||no||yes||Partial||Yes||42% of LSOAs and 2% of MSOAs have no data|
|Pupil Absence in Schools in England||no||no||yes||No|
|Secondary School Absence||yes||no||yes||No|
|Health and Care||Emergency Admissions to Hospital Indicator||yes||no||yes||No|
|Years of Potential Life Lost Indicator||yes||no||yes||Yes||No (latest data is for 2003)||Yes|
|Conceptions - Under 18's||no||yes||no||Partial||No (latest data is for 2003)||8% of MSOAs have no data|
|Housing||Changes of Ownership by Dwelling Price||no||no||yes||Partial||Yes||Yes|
|Dwelling Stock by Council Tax Band||yes||no||yes||No|
|Physical Environment||Air Emissions||no||no||yes||No|
|Air Quality Management Areas||no||no||yes||No|
|Ambient Air Quality||no||no||yes||No|
|Commercial and Industrial Floorspace and Rateable Value Statistics||no||no||yes||No|
|Land Use Statistics (Generalised Land Use)||yes||no||yes||No|
|Land Use Statistics (Previously-Developed Land)||yes||no||yes||No|
|Work Deprivation||New Deal Programme||no||no||yes||Partial||Yes||Yes|
|VAT Based Enterprises||no||no||yes||No|
|VAT Based Local Units||no||no||yes||No|
Note that these datasets only cover England, whereas the benefits data is available for the whole of Great Britain and the Census data is available for the whole of the United Kingdom.
- At the output area level: the only data that is available at an output area level is that from the 2001 Census.