'Opportunities and despair, it's all in there': Practitioner experiences and explanations of area effects and life chances

R Atkinson, K Kintrea

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article looks at perceptions of the link between residential location and life chances. The idea of 'area effects' suggests that people's prospects for social engagement and economic activity are related to the neighbourhood where they live. It permeates social and urban policy as well as theories of deprivation and social exclusion. However, while quantitative evidence on area effects has begun to suggest that such a link exists, there has been little evidence using qualitative data and no contrast between the social patterns of life in deprived and more socially diverse areas. In response to these concerns, this article uses data from in depth interviews with practitioners and voluntary workers in both deprived and socially diverse neighbourhoods to throw more light on how the linkages between area of residence and life chances are understood locally. The article concludes that experiences of deprivation may be more entrenched and fatalistic in deprived areas in response to a range of perceived negative impacts of area on social action and engagement. However, this general position is also contradictory and fragmented depending on social position within the locale. The article concludes by drawing out these ideas in terms of how the experience and reproduction of poverty are theorized.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)437-455
Number of pages19
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2004


  • area effects
  • deprivation
  • life chances
  • neighborhoods
  • social excursion

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