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Frequently Asked Questions - Updated 13/05/13



This section contains a number of frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation.

The questions are grouped by four broad themes:

Using the SIMD


What is SIMD used for?

The SIMD is a key tool for identifying the ongoing problem of area concentrations of deprivation and the specific issues and challenges that these areas face. It is used for a wide range of purposes including as a statistical classification and as an indicator to target resources and policies at small areas (see the resource allocation FAQ for some examples). It also feeds into work looking at health inequalities across Scotland. The index is also used as a tool in itself with the individual domains and indicators being used for a variety of purposes. For example, some Local Authorities use levels of income and employment deprivation to assess and monitor need.

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What is a datazone?

The datazone is the key small area statistical geography in Scotland. They were introduced for the first time in 2004, when Scottish Neighbourhood Statistics (SNS) developed them as a common, stable and consistent small area geography. There are 6,505 datazones covering the whole of Scotland.

Datazones are groups of 2001 Census output areas and have, on average, populations of between 500 and 1,000 household residents. They nest within local authority boundaries and where possible, they have been constructed to respect physical boundaries and natural communities. As far as possible, they have a regular shape andcontain households with similar social characteristics.

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Which datazones are in ... ?

To find which datazones are in a larger geography (such as local authorities, parliamentary constituencies, or community health partnerships, etc) you can use the Quick Lookup file.

In the Quick Lookup file,

  • identify the column with the higher level geography that you are interested in (such as local authorities, intermediate zones, etc)
  • click on the small arrow to the bottom right of the column name - a small window will pop up
  • scroll to the top of the pop-up window and choose “sort ascending”. This column will be sorted alphabetically and all the other columns will be resorted to match it.
  • scroll down to the area you are interested in to see the datazones listed under that name.

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How can I link postcodes to SIMD ranks or deciles?

The  SIMD Postcode Lookup section contains postcode lookup files for the whole of Scotland and individual local authorities.

  • The first tab of the spreadsheet is named "Description" and it includes a "Quick Finder" feature to help you match a postcode to an SIMD rank or decile (amongst other things).
  • The second tab provides a complete list of postcodes in the local authority and their corresponding values.

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Where does my area sit on the SIMD?

The SIMD ranks the 6,505 datazones that cover Scotland from most deprived (ranked 1) to least deprived (ranked 6,505). To find out about datazones see our What is a datazone? FAQ.

Many uses of the SIMD focus on the most deprived 15% of datazones in Scotland. This means any datazone with a rank between 1 and 976. However sometimes a different cut-off is more suitable. Some possible cut-offs are listed below:

  • Most deprived 5% ranked between 1 and 325
  • Most deprived 10% ranked between 1 and 651
  • Most deprived 15% ranked between 1 and 976
  • Most deprived 20% ranked between 1 and 1301
  • Most deprived 25% ranked between 1 and 1626
  • Most deprived 30% ranked between 1 and 1952

By datazone code

To find out the rank of the datazone you are interested in:

  • Use the Datazone Lookup. Select your datazone on the Datazone Search or Datazone Profile worksheets.

By postcode

To find out the rank of the datazone that contains a postcode you are interested in:

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Can I produce an SIMD rank for areas larger than datazones?

The SIMD is calculated at datazone level only. In order to measure how deprived larger areas are, it is necessary to look at the proportion of datazones within that larger area that fall within the 5, 10 or 15% most deprived areas, or the proportion that fall within bands of (say) 5% or 10%.

It is important to bear in mind that datazones nest directly into intermediate geographies and local authorities. However, they do not fit exactly into other higher level geographies, e.g. multi-member wards. Any comparisons of the SIMD at these geographies will be on a "best fit" basis only.

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Can I average datazone ranks to get an idea of the deprivation for a larger area?

No. The SIMD ranks tell you that one datazone is more deprived than another but not how much more deprived. Rather, you could consider the background data that make up the individual domains, and compare these against other areas. For example, you could work out the percentage of the population in the area that is income deprived as one measure of the deprivation in that area. Note however that this is not appropriate for all domains and indicators - for more details of indicators that can and cannot be used in this way you can try looking at the Technical Notes or you can contact us. See also, "Can I produce an SIMD rank for areas larger than datazones?"

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How can we use SIMD to understand communities better?

The SIMD ranks provide a relative measure of deprivation. It is important to note that because the rankings of datazones in the index are relative, it is not possible to tell from the rank how much more deprived one datazone is than another. A datazone ranked 5 is not necessarily twice as deprived as one that is ranked 10. Likewise, a datazone with a more deprived rank in SIMD 2012 than it had in SIMD 2009 may not necessarily have become more deprived in absolute terms - rather it may be that its position relative to other areas has worsened.

To find out why an area has a different ranking from another, it is possible to investigate the domains and indicators that make up the overall SIMD rank. These are available in the Download SIMD 2012 Data section of the SIMD website. Individual indicators provide absolute values for each datazone and so can provide information on how much more deprived one area is than another.

To assess why a datazone may have changed rank over time, again, it is possible to look at individual indicators in the Download SIMD 2012 Data section of the website. However, care must be taken when comparing indicators between SIMD 2004, 2006, 2009, and 2012 as some data sources have changed and the methodology for compiling the indicators may have changed. These changes are described for each indicator in the Technical Notes.

Finally, although datazone boundaries have remained constant, populations within the datazones may have changed and this might affect the overall SIMD rank for a datazone.

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Can I compare SIMD to other indices of multiple deprivation across the United Kingdom?

Each of the four nations in the United Kingdom produces its own index. Although each of the indices are based on the same general methodology, the indices are not directly comparable for a range of reasons. For example, they use different geographies (Scottish datazones are considerably smaller than the Super Output Areas (SOAs) used in England and Wales) and slightly different indicators and weightings. One way around some of these issues would be to select a number of relevant indicators for which consistent data is available across the UK (e.g. benefit claimant data) and compare areas this way. However, if you do this, you should bear in mind that you will be comparing across the different geographies used in the different nations.

The Office for National Statistics and each of the IMD producers have put together a website to explain in more detail the similarities and differences between the four indices. They have also produced a guidance paper which provides some possible approaches to comparing across them.

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Is the population in the 15% most deprived datazones equivalent to 15% of the population of Scotland?

Because datazones all have roughly the same population, the population in the 15% most deprived areas is approximately 15% of the Scottish population. Note however that this is subject to change as the populations of datazones will change over time (due to demolitions, new buildings, etc).

Datazones are based on 2001 Census populations and are the static geographic unit in the SIMD methodology. It is anticipated that datazone boundaries will be reviewed in light of the 2011 population Census results.

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