How much of you is you and how much of you is a product of your geography? Have a look at these maps. Areas are coloured red and dark red if many people are poor in those places. And they are coloured green, and especially dark green, if very few people are poor. These maps are produced from data that comes from government, and the government now has very good data. They know at an individual level who is claiming what benefits because their income is too little for them to live on.
We’re starting off around Hay, Hay-on-Wye, and it is much-of-a-muchness. You can’t see very much around here, mainly because there are so few people. There are some very big houses round here, and some very small houses; but because there aren’t enough people we can’t really say much about the areas. So zoom out, zoom out and pan across a bit. Have a look at Hereford. Suddenly you can see the divisions, you can see the poorer parts of Hereford and the richer parts, and you can see how they are separated. But move out again, look at Gloucester, look at Bristol. You get the same pattern in almost every town in Britain. The same division between rich and poor areas.
Look across at the whole country. Everywhere is like this, but some places are more divided than others. So zoom into London, because in London you can see the starkest divides within the entire country. And then zoom into the very centre of London. In the very centre of London you’ll see the greatest concentrations of poverty, and some of the greatest concentrations of wealth. And if you are born in, or grow up in, or move to some of these areas, you are most likely poor. But if you are born in, or grow up in, or move to the green areas, you will be growing up in a very different environment and you’ll see very different things and you’ll mix with very different people.
If you look out at the country as a whole and you look at the villages between the cities, the villages between London and Reading, between Reading and Bristol, between Bristol and Gloucester, and between Gloucester and Hereford, then often you’ll see that they are almost all coloured green. So if you grow up in these places today you won’t see the lives that are so typical of so many people in Britain.
So what are you are product of? Is it all about you? Or are you a result of where you have come from? It matters because this country is the most divided country in Europe. Best of luck with you A levels – although the extent to which you might rely on that luck – will also depend very much on where, as well as who, you are.

Danny Dorling speaking on ‘Hay Levels’ on examining the geodemographics of the UK, using maps created by Oliver O’Brien (UCL, CASA) in 2012 and updated in 2015. You can further explore the maps here. Video recorded in Hay on Wye in May 2016.