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Public policy and population distribution: Developing appropriate indicators of settlement patterns

Lookup NU author(s): Emeritus Professor Mike Coombes, Dr Simon Raybould


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In this paper we are concerned with the measurement of aspects of population distribution, or settlement patterns, and the use of these measures in public-policy contexts in particular. More specifically, we query the adequacy of the population-density indicator, which is widely used in statistical formulae such as those by which the British government allocates funding to English local authorities. Our approach is to work through a series of topics, starting with an introductory discussion of the ideas raised by analyses of population distribution, and followed by a section on issues involved in the measurement of settlement patterns. In the third section, we outline the types of public-policy concern which call for statistical indicators of settlement patterns, and then present a set of guidelines for measurements which will be of value in the specific context of British local-government finance-allocation systems. In the next three sections, these guidelines are used to assess the appropriateness of settlement-pattern indicators which are already in use in such systems, in each case moving on to outline an alternative form of measurement designed in the light of weaknesses of current indicators. In the penultimate section, we provide an empirical assessment of the new measures developed here, then in the final section we briefly review the appropriateness of the approach that has been adopted.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Coombes MG, Raybould SR

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Environment and Planning C: Government & Policy

Year: 2001

Volume: 19

Issue: 2

Pages: 223-248

ISSN (print): 0263-774X

ISSN (electronic):


DOI: 10.1068/c9826


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