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Bristol has been ranked among the worst places in the country for women to live, in new research by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen). 

The study, conducted on behalf of BBC Woman’s Hour, ranked 380 local authorities in the UK from best to worst using data from sources such as the Office for National statistics’ 2016 Annual Population Survey and the 2011 Census.

The research looked at 8 factors that women were found to value most in a place, including income, housing affordability, personal wellbeing, safety, education, life expectancy, environment and culture, in order to determine their overall quality of life in each area.

East Dunbartonshire in Scotland was found to be the best place for women to live, with Islington in North London named the worst. Bristol was ranked 249th out of 380 in the country overall.


In the education and income categories Bristol did well, ranking 45th and 68th respectively. Bristol was also ranked reasonably highly in the environment category, which was judged on pollution levels and air quality, claiming 191st place.

In all other categories, however, Bristol ranked well below average. The city was named 237th for life expectancy, and 249th for housing affordability. It also came 249th in the culture category, which was measured by access to entertainment, arts and museums.

Bristol’s worst scoring category was safety, where Bristol ranked 364th out of 380. This was judged based on crime rates, and was considered a particularly important factor for women when choosing a place to live.

For women under 30, an age group which includes most of Bristol University’s female students, the results were even worse, with Bristol ranking 254th, compared with 249th overall.

The results for this age group were dragged down by the education category, which was judged on the proportion of the local population with A Levels and some form of higher education. In this category Bristol was ranked 80th; 35 places below Bristol’s overall education ranking.

The results were also affected by the employment category that was added for the under 30s group, in which Bristol came 175th.

Karen Dalziel, Woman’s Hour Editor, said; ‘the Best Place to be a Woman analysis has given us a powerful tool to understand the factors affecting the quality of a woman’s life in Great Britain’.

However, she also recognised its limitations in determining women’s real happiness.‘How important are low house prices, good schools and availability of jobs? Can access to green fields or cinemas compensate for high crime rates? Or is having family and friends nearby what women value most?’, she asked.

Some female students at Bristol University were surprised by the results of the survey. Law student  Cecily Donohue-Hall said; ‘as a woman living in Bristol, my experiences have been overwhelmingly positive. I haven’t encountered anything unpleasant that I haven’t had in other cities. I’m really surprised at the results, especially in the safety category, because to me Bristol has always felt really safe’.

‘As a student, Bristol seems to be a very progressive area’

Iona Holmes, also studying Law at Bristol University, said; ‘I don’t think my gender has had any impact on my experience here. I think the city as a whole is really inclusive. I feel like the opportunities I’ve been given and the experiences I’ve had have all been fair’.

Bristol student Alice See told Epigram; ‘I’m really surprised by the study, and a little disappointed as well, because I think it gives Bristol a worse name than it deserves. As a student, Bristol seems to be a very progressive area, where women are celebrated, and I haven’t felt any inequality personally.’

However, Alice acknowledged that the student perspective may not be representative of Bristol as a whole. ‘Maybe we only have a narrow view of Bristol as privileged students, and we don’t understand the everyday issues that affect women here’.


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