Analysing Multi-Dimensional and Multi-Scale Inequalities in Scottish Society (AMMISS)


Oxford Principal Investigator: Richard Breen

External Hosting Institution and Principal Investigator: Susan McVie, University of Edinburgh


Governments across the world have become increasingly aware of the social and economic problems caused by inequality. It's not just income inequality that is cause for concern but how different aspects of inequality - in health, education, employment and crime - combine to impoverish particular groups, and deepen divisions in society. For certain types of inequality, Scotland fares worse than comparable countries, particularly with respect to suicide, homicide, overcrowding and children living in poverty. As a result, the Scottish Government has launched a national strategy to create a 'Fairer Scotland'. For this initiative to be successful, however, it needs to have solid evidence which is based on a well-informed understanding of how the different dimensions of inequality interact and change over time.

Our goal in this project is to achieve a step change in the quality and usefulness of the evidence base in Scotland by developing world-leading advances in how the multi-dimensional nature of inequality is understood. Working closely with policy makers at local and national level, we aim to support, guide and inform government policies with a view to achieving a genuine reduction in social inequalities. Our project is called AMMISS: Analysing Multi-Dimensional and Multi-Scale Inequalities in Scottish Society. It represents an ambitious and innovative research programme that will explore the causes and consequences of social inequalities in Scottish society in a much deeper and more joined-up way than has been achieved before. It is 'multi-dimensional' because we will explore multiple forms of inequality (e.g. poor health, low educational achievement, exposure to crime, failure to access the labour market, poor social mobility).

Developing cutting-edge analysis we shall help policy makers understand how these different dimensions interact to affect life chances. It is 'multi-scale' because looking at inequality for a single level of geography or social unit can lead to a distorted understanding of inequality. So it is particularly important that we understand how inequalities impact at different levels both spatially (e.g. communities and cities) and socially (e.g. individuals and families). Our novel approach will allow us to analyse the causes and effects of multi-dimensional and multi-scale inequalities in a truly joined-up way, taking full advantage of Scotland's world-class administrative and survey data.

AMMISS has two main themes. First, we will explore the way in which the neighbourhoods impact on how people experience inequalities and how changing patterns of poverty in Scottish cities impact on those experiences; for example, by affecting access to the labour market and exposure to crime. We will also examine how changing ethnic mix affects educational achievement and experiences of victimisation. Second, we will investigate how inequality impacts individuals over the course of their lives; for example, how experiences in early childhood affect social inequalities experienced later in life. We will also explore why some 'high risk' people and neighbourhoods remain 'resilient' to social inequalities, achieving positive outcomes against the odds. To make sense of such a broad range of issues we have brought together an impressive group of internationally recognised experts from various different areas of research. This will allow us to develop the innovative and insightful research needed to tackle inequality.

Working closely with a range of organisations across Scotland, including central and local government and charities, will provide many opportunities for innovation and ensure that our work is relevant and useful for achieving a fairer society. Our ambition is to help those in positions of influence achieve real change. By making Scotland an exemplar for inequalities research, our work has the potential to influence and inspire policies to reduce social inequality around the world.