Neighborhoods, ethnicity and school choice

Developing a statistical framework for geodemographic analysis

Richard Harris*, Ron Johnston, Simon Burgess

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

38 Citations (Scopus)


Geodemographics as the "analysis of people by where they live" has origins in urban sociology and social mapping, and is experiencing a renaissance in applied spatial demography. However, some commentators have expressed reservations about the statistical limitations of common geodemographic practices, especially focusing on the potential internal heterogeneity of the geodemographic groupings, as well as the problem of clearly identifying predictor variables that might account for or explain the socioeconomic patterns revealed by geodemographic analyses. In this paper we argue that geodemographic typologies are structured methods for making sense of the spatial and socioeconomic patterns encoded within complex datasets such as national census data. By treating geodemographics as more a framework than a tool for analysis in its own right we are able to integrate it with the flexibility and statistical conventions offered by multilevel modeling. We demonstrate this with a case study of whether pupils from different types of neighborhood in Birmingham, England are more or less likely to attend their nearest state-funded secondary school and how that likelihood varies with the ethnic composition of the neighborhood. In so doing we build on previous research suggesting that ethnic segregation between schools is at least equal to that between neighborhoods in England and speculate in this regard on the consequences of current government plans to extend choice to parents within a schools market.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)553-579
Number of pages27
JournalPopulation Research and Policy Review
Issue number5-6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2007


  • Ethnicity
  • Geodemographics
  • Multilevel
  • Schools

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