Academic journal article URISA Journal

Analyzing Perceptions of Inequalities in Rural Areas of England Using a Mixed-Methods Approach

Academic journal article URISA Journal

Analyzing Perceptions of Inequalities in Rural Areas of England Using a Mixed-Methods Approach

Article excerpt


Tickamyer (2000) conceptualizes space in three ways: As place--a specific locale comprising a hybrid of biography and topography (Hall, Lashua, & Coffey, 2006); as relational units developed to organize our ideas of place including comparing between them; and as scale--the size of these relational units used to make comparisons. By comparing places using different relational unit's inequalities between locations operating at a variety of scales can be identified. The term 'inequality' in this case (as used in this paper) refers simply to the spatial dispersion of a distribution, following precedents set by Litchfield (1999) and Kokko et al. (1999).

Why do we give precedence to inequality resulting from gender, race or class but fail to give equal consideration to spatial categories (Tickamyer, 2000; Dorling, 2011)"type" : "article-journal", "volume" : "29"}, "uris" : [" documents/?uuid=3e5680c8-4445-45d0-bad6-e9e2fd2d160a" ] }], "mendeley" : {"manualFormatting" : "(Tickamyer, 2000; Dorling, 2011? The achievement of sustainable rural development implicitly depends on the spatial distribution of social, economic, and environmental goods and services that are needed to maintain, reinforce, or improve the vitality of rural areas. The need to understand inequalities in the distribution of environmental conditions across different social groups is highlighted in the UK Government Sustainable Development Strategy (HM Government, 2005) and plays a key role in the work of the Environment Agency and other government bodies (Warburton, 2006; Coleman and Duarte-Davidson, 2007; Defra 2008). There is a growing recognition that to achieve real improvements in rural conditions it is not sufficient simply to consider levels of poverty and environmental quality. The gaps between rich and poor, and between good and bad are at least as important (Boyce, 2007; Hills et al., 2009; Wilkinson and Pickett, 2009). However, there is little research to date that investigates specifically rural inequalities from the necessary interdisciplinary perspective.

A society can be considered well-ordered when designed to advance the good of its residents and effectively regulated by a shared public conception of what is considered just. The challenge in identifying concepts of justice is whether they are based on the actual distributions of resources or instead derived from normative principles of what should or could be (Jasso & P.H. Rossi, 1977). That is to identify whether the unequal distribution of a resource only identifies a difference in location or rather implies unfairness or injustice (Le Grand, 1991). The use of participatory geographic information system (PGIS) methods offers the potential to investigate, in a spatial framework, how actual distributions of resources interact with resident's normative principles of a fair or just allocation of goods and services (Dorling, 2010; Soja, 2010).

This paper reports on the findings from a project that attempted to look at concepts of place across relational units at different scales to identify both quantitatively and qualitatively the distribution, magnitude and effect of spatial inequalities on rural residents of England in the 21 st Century. This research is used to illustrate the development of novel mixed method approaches incorporating the use of PGIS techniques to help identify perceptions of injustice that may be applicable in a wider range of contexts, places and communities.


The Social and Environmental Inequalities in Rural Areas (SEIRA) project ( was organized in interlinked phases. Initially, spatial datasets of social, economic and environmental conditions in rural England were derived from existing national datasets and then this information was used to identify and measure inequalities quantitatively.

Rural England was identified according to the official UK government rural-urban definition (Bibby and Shepherd (2004)) which was based on population density and linked to settlement morphology. …

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