01Manchester and Birmingham city centres don’t currently spread prosperity across the whole of the city

In Manchester and Birmingham, it is the case that some places benefit to a greater extent than others. The maps below split neighbourhoods (Lower Super Output Areas or LSOAs) into 4 areas depending on whether they are below or above the city average on two indicators: resident incomes and share of working residents commuting into the city centre.

Box 1: Defining city centres and data used

Following the standard definition used in Centre for Cities’ work, both city centres are defined as a circle of radius of 0.8 miles from a central point (Bull Street/High Street in Birmingham and St Peter’s Square in Manchester). Given that lower super output areas are the lowest level that income data is available for, these definitions were fitted to LSOAs as best as possible. This results in the definitions in Figure 1.

Figure 1: The definitions of Birmingham and Manchester city centres used in this briefing

Birmingham city centre boundaries

Manchester city centre boundaries

Source: OpenStreetMap; Centre for Cities

The cities are defined using the category of Primary Urban Area (PUA), used across Centre for Cities’ work, which captures the built-up footprint of a city.

All data used in this report comes from the ONS. Data for incomes is 2018, while data for commuting is for 2011. These are both the latest data available.


In Manchester the city centre mainly spreads prosperity within a green ring – defined by those areas with higher-than-average commuting to the centre – that includes the inner authorities of Manchester and Salford and follows the train line down to Hale in the south.

Figure 2: How Manchester city centre provides prosperity for the wider city

Source: ONS; Census 2011

These areas are made up of two groups. The first is those that have higher commutes but lower incomes, which are mainly in inner city Manchester (coloured light green on the map). For these places, the city centre provides access to prosperity by being a source of lower-paid jobs.

The second is those areas with high shares of commuting to the centre and high incomes (coloured dark green on the map). These areas are either in the city centre (think young professionals) or around the fringes of the ring, in places such as Didsbury and Prestwich.

Those that fall outside of the reach of the city centre, classified as ‘lower commuting’, are further away from it. Again, splitting this geography by income shows some interesting findings. Lower-income areas (coloured light purple in the map) are found mainly in the inner urban places such as Oldham, Rochdale and Bury. Higher-income areas are in more urban fringe areas on the outskirts of the city.


Similar patterns are seen in Birmingham, with even clearer geographic distinctions. The areas that disproportionately benefit from the prosperity generated in Birmingham city centre are mainly in Birmingham local authority and parts of Solihull. The areas that benefit from the lower-skilled jobs available are in inner city locations in Birmingham local authority (coloured light green on the map) and areas benefiting disproportionately from higher-paid jobs are in the centre of Birmingham or to the north or the south, in places like Sutton Coldfield and Kings Heath (coloured dark green on the map).

Figure 3: How Birmingham city centre provides prosperity for the wider city

Source: ONS; Census 2011

Most of Solihull to the east and the Black Country to the west have much weaker connections to the city centre. As in Manchester, lower-income areas are in the older urban footprints of places like Wolverhampton, Walsall and West Bromwich, while higher income areas are in leafier parts such as Tettenhall and Stourbridge in the Black Country and across most of the Solihull local authority area.