The kingdom by the sea

  • On average, coastal areas tend to show higher levels of deprivation, lower levels of education, lower social mobility and longer travel times to major employment centres. Their inhabitants were also more likely to vote for Brexit.
  • On the other hand, people in coastal communities seem no less happy and aspects such poverty among the elderly, quality of the environment and travel times to local amenities are similar to – or sometimes better than – most of the rest of England.
  • Coastal areas, like other parts of the country, vary widely in their characteristics, though as elsewhere, negative (and positive) attributes often cluster together in the same places. We identify areas that combine relatively high levels of poverty, poor education, poor health, low social mobility and geographical isolation as the most conspicuous examples of 'left-behind' coastal communities.

Figure 1: Distributions of social indicator scores for locations in England
Sources: Office for National Statistics; Department for Transport; Social Mobility Commission; Electoral Commission; SchoolDash analysis.
Notes: For reference, postcodes within 5km of the coast account for just under 13% of all postcodes in England. Travel times are by public transport and foot. All data are from 2020 or 2019 except for travel times (2017), Social Mobility Index (2017), EU referendum results (2016) and qualifications (2011). Most attributes are derived from the Lower Layer Super Output Area (LSOA) associated with the postcode, which provides highly localised information (there are just under 33,000 LSOAs across England). POLAR4 uses Middle Super Output Areas (MSOA), which is somewhat less localised (just under 7,000 across England). house-price ratios, Social Mobility Index, wellbeing measures and Brexit voting results use data from the corresponding local authority or unitary authority. These are much less granular (just over 300 across England) and inevitably include some data from non-coastal areas, so take them with a pinch of sea salt.
Figure 2: Social and educational indicators by local authority area
Note: Values were calculated by using the mean of all postcodes within a 5km radius of each coastal location. The line indicates the results of a linear regression through all the data points in order to give an objective indication of whether correlations are positive, negative or absent.
Sources: Office for National Statistics; Department for Transport; Social Mobility Commission; Electoral Commission; SchoolDash analysis.
Figure 3: Socioeconomic indicators for coastal areas in England
Sources: Office for National Statistics; Department for Transport; Social Mobility Commission; Electoral Commission; SchoolDash analysis.
Notes: There is a break in the data between Somerset and Lancashire; this is to indicate the position of the English-Welsh border. Some metrics (specifically, Social Mobility Index, Brexit voting and wellbeing) are missing for certain areas. This is due to administrative changes in the coding of locations since the data were collected, making it harder to marry them with corresponding current postcodes.
Map 1: Coastal locations at which selected social indicators are below the national median
 
Sources: Office for National Statistics; Department for Transport; Social Mobility Commission; Electoral Commission; SchoolDash analysis.
Note: The intensity of the heatmap colours is a function not only of the values of the various socioeconomic indicators shown, but also the closeness of the coastal locations, which in turn is affected by the wiggliness of the coastline in each locality. Zooming in to specific locations tends to reduce this effect and so gives a more accurate representation of the underlying indicators. (For the uninitiated, 'wiggly' is a technical term that means 'crenulated'.)
 

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