Civic pride versus damned statistics 5

March 13, 2008

Do academics in Bucks New University, the University of Surrey and Royal Holloway really have a better quality of life than those in Manchester, Sheffield, Oxford and Cambridge? Lots of "goodies" in the local environment (high house prices, big salaries, no pollution) do not necessarily make for happy dons. Social scientists know that a sure-fire way of making people feel discontented is to make them feel relatively deprived. And - surprise, surprise - reanalysing the data reveals that in the most favoured universities on your list, the average academic will be relatively deprived. Her salary will be far too small to buy even an average house. Reordering the data by the ratio of average house price to average academic salary reveals that the best university is Hull (101 on your list) and the worst is Chichester (8). Whereas an average house in Hull costs just under three times the average academic's salary, in Chichester it is almost 11 times higher. In fact, there is a strong negative correlation overall between the satisfaction ratings and the house price-to-salary ratio: a relative deprivation perspective tells almost exactly the opposite story to the one you outline.

Something is certainly greener in the institutions you place high on your list, but I suspect it is the academics themselves, jealous of their better housed and richer neighbours!

Charles Pattie, Department of geography, University of Sheffield.

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