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Community Wellbeing

The Community Wellbeing programme studies what affects the wellbeing of the population. It focuses strongly on the effect of local economic conditions, housing, local amenities, crime and community cohesions, as well as personal factors like mental health and the quality of work.

The central idea behind the programme is that what ultimately matters is people’s subjective wellbeing and this should be the goal of public policy. This programme therefore focuses on the determinants of wellbeing, especially those that arise at the local level.

Whereas the Centre's other programmes concentrate on the determinants of growth and how to promote more of it in the economy as a whole, the Community Wellbeing Programme studies local and regional level negative effects of the unequal distribution of growth on community wellbeing, cohesion and stability. What causes unemployment, limited job opportunities, low quality jobs and poor local amenities to become concentrated in certain localities and regions? Why do these often remain embedded long term, even when nearby localities may enjoy better conditions?

The programme also looks at more personal factors affecting wellbeing. These include mental health, occupations and the quality of work.

Negative economic and social conditions not only lead to increasing inequality of life chances but can seriously affect community and individual stability. We will investigate the impact of a number of pecuniary and non pecuniary factors on wellbeing including unemployment, types of work environments, economic shocks, the impact of the built environment, access to local amenities, to public and green space and rates of in- and out- migration. We need to involve both wellbeing and urban researchers to disentangle the complex web of causality here and to properly inform policy making. Studies on depression and loneliness in increasingly segregated communities will be linked with those analysing the effect of planning regulation on land prices which in turn impact on housing size, community design and availability of amenities, public and green spaces and commuting access to local job markets.

Poor local economic and social conditions can lead to increased concentrations of anti-social behaviour and crime which can reinforce the negative spiral of worsening wellbeing and undermine economic regeneration. Our crime research uses newly available national and regional level police and crime data at a very detailed individual temporal and spatial level. We are able to link this to employment and education data to determine the individual, social and economic drivers of crime as well as policies to treat and deter it. Our research investigates a range of crime types and their causes from property crime whose patterns are often influenced by shifts in market values of goods stolen, to hate crime following economic and social shocks (e.g. terrorist incidents, public discussions surrounding policies on immigration, Brexit etc); from criminal gangs, serious organised crime to ebay type hard drug auctions on the Dark Net which are changing the face of drug crime. If we are to prevent individuals from embarking on criminal careers in the first place we also need to investigate the push and pull factors influencing their decision to undertake or avoid crime. A range of causes is explored from external factors - local and national economic and social shocks, unemployment, austerity cutbacks, neighbourhood effects - to incentives to become involved in crime based on individuals’ evaluation of risk, life chances and employment opportunities.

Community Wellbeing publications

Timothy Besley, Aveek Bhattacharya, Jagjit Chadha, Paul Cheshire, Neil Lee, Alan Manning, Andrew McNeil, Margarida Bandeira Morais, Henry G. Overman, David Soskice, Anna Valero, Giles Wilkes and Alison Wolf

22 April 2024

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