Postcodes and generalisations

Picking up on the analogy with postcodes in the previous post, here’s an example to illustrate the importance of looking at how people are divided into categories, and also why survey results should be treated with caution.  Last month the borough of Richmond upon Thames in South West London proudly claimed to have the most satisfied population in London.  Now Richmond is a very nice place – spoiled in my view by getting a lot of aircraft noise – but I’d be surprised if the occupants of leafy Richmond were really happier than the occupants of equally leafy Hampstead.  But the survey compares different boroughs.  The borough of Richmond, like some other outer London boroughs, comprises mostly reasonably affluent residential areas.  Hampstead is in the borough of Camden – a much more varied inner London borough where you can find tremendous wealth and considerable deprivation in different places: the observation at that Camden has the profile of a large univesity city is not particularly fanciful.  If you compared the area covered by the TW9 postcode with that covered by NW3, I doubt whether you would find much variation in residents’ satisfaction with their lot.

Another winner in the survey is the City of London, which also shows up as having a high proportion of satisfied residents.  Famously, the City of London mostly isn’t a residential area.  But most of the people who do live there live in the Barbican and Golden Lane flats, so one reading of the survey is that it confirms, as I’ve always suspected, that occupants of these flats like living where they do.  But you couldn’t extend this to suggest that Londoners would be happier if more of us lived in high-density city centre flats.  The Barbican is popular with its residents precisely because it’s a rather unusual choice, and the lifestyle associated with living there isn’t for everybody.


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