Tracking social integration in London

Over the past year the GLA Intelligence Unit has been assisting in the development of the Mayor’s strategy to improve social integration in London. One of the main parts of this strategy is to improve London’s evidence base to measure, evaluate and share findings on the state of social integration.

We have published a set of initial measures to accompany the strategy, which outline the state of social integration in London. These measures were selected from existing high-quality datasets, such as large-scale central government surveys and administrative data.

This blog sheds some light on how we have developed these initial measures and our plans for the future measurement of the state of social integration in London.

Initial development work

In 2017, the GLA commissioned the New Policy Institute (NPI) to assist with reviewing and mapping the existing evidence and relevant datasets on different aspects of social integration, with the goal of producing a framework of robust indicators to baseline, monitor and track progress.

The literature on social integration is extensive and one of the main difficulties in deciding to measure the concept of social integration is that there is no standard definition of social integration. So how can we measure something that is not defined in a standard way?

The GLA, in publishing its strategy, has developed a definition of social integration, following consultation with stakeholders and reviewing previous literature:

Social integration is the extent to which people positively interact and connect with others who are different to themselves. It is determined by the level of equality between people, the nature of their relationships, and their degree of participation in the communities in which they live.
This builds on and expands the definitions used by the Social Integration Commission and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Integration. One thing they all have in common is that they acknowledge that social integration is multi-dimensional.

So, if we are looking at a multi-dimensional concept then it follows that what we measure are multiple dimensions.

Selecting our measures

The GLA’s definition of social integration has three main parts:
• Relationships
• Participation
• Equality

We have selected 18 measures in total. Sixteen measures are from a much wider initial set to illustrate these three domains based on what is available from existing data. There are also two broader outcomes that we are measuring – feelings of belonging and the extent to which London is a great place to live – which are effects of good social integration.
The data are laid out in a multi-tab spreadsheet, with a summary sheet looking at the measures for London as a whole, but then broken down for sub-groups and geographic areas where possible in separate tabs (see link at the end of this note).

These measures are the starting point and give us a snapshot of London upon launching our strategy. However, we recognise that the measurement of social integration in London is currently limited by the quality and coverage of existing data.

Improvement work

Following our initial measures, we have been exploring our longer-term measurement strategy, in particular our ambition to be a world leader in social integration measurement for cities.

Specifically, we have asked:
1. Are these the most appropriate 18 measures to track or should there be others that should be added or replace existing measures?
2. What aspects of social integration are being missed?
3. How can we measure the success of the programmes in our strategy?

To assist with our improvement work, we have convened an Expert Measurement Group for Social Integration comprising central government professionals, local government professionals, third sector and civil society professionals and academics with an interest/specialism in social integration and cohesion. They are advising on our measurement strategy going forward, as well as helping us to prioritise the research gaps we have identified.

To address our research gaps we intend to conduct bespoke data collection. We are investigating the possibility of commissioning a new survey of Londoners, but we are also thinking more broadly. Survey data has limitations, including issues of response bias and social desirability bias: the least integrated people may not respond to surveys, while there is evidence that some groups may give socially desirable responses rather than what they really think. Therefore we propose to set up an Innovative Methods programme, which will support one or two projects a year, to supplement the more traditional quantitative/qualitative research and evaluation that we will undertake. This programme will invite bids for research under a number of different strands to make the most of emerging opportunities with new data and methods.

As well as monitoring changes to social inclusion across the city, the strategy also includes details of the success measures we will use to evaluate the individual social integration initiatives announced in the strategy.

Now that the strategy has been published, the GLA is focused on implementing the policies and programmes within it, to the benefit of all Londoners. Providing the evidence of the state of social integration in London and how it is changing, is a vital part of this.

If you have any questions on this work, please contact Barry Fong barry.fong@london.gov.uk in the GLA’s Intelligence Unit.

Download the Social Integration Headline Measures https://data.london.gov.uk/dataset/social-integration-headline-measures