Author: Sebastian Anthony. Published: 6 August, 2019.
How woke is your city? To see how the progressive mindsets of a city’s inhabitants shape daily life, Bankrate assessed the wokeness of each UK city using key data points relating to social and environmental issues. The ‘wokeness’ of a city is defined not only by its recognition of the issues, but how the city addresses them and enables positive change.
Whether it’s a green-minded commitment to recycling, a strong voter turnout, or ensuring that the ethnic diversity of the city is represented in local government, these cities have not just woken up to their duty to encourage a socially aware community, but they are staying woke by ensuring continued progress.
Bankrate scored 50 cities in seven separate categories in order to determine which is truly the UK’s Most Woke City.
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It may come as a surprise to some that Oxford tops the rankings for the UK’s Most Woke City.
Many may have expected Brighton & Hove to have been the forerunner, but, with a higher score for Recycling Rate, ULEV Registration, and a lower Gender Pay Gap, Oxford – the city with the UK’s second-youngest population – was able to beat the odds-on favourite by less than 0.5 points.
Interestingly, while Oxford does indeed boast the highest overall score, the university city does not take the top spot for any individual category. Meanwhile, the runner up, Brighton & Hove, scored the highest for both Vegan and Vegetarian eateries and Search Trends.
The best Recycling Rate score belongs to St Albans, which placed 18th overall. Keeping their streets clean, Peterborough scored highest for ULEV Registration, but narrowly misses out on the top ten, coming 13th overall. With strong figures for both women in council and BAME representation, Wolverhampton had the best score for Council Diversity, but ranked 28th overall. The city with the narrowest Pay Gap is Swansea, whose total score places them at 26th. The city with the highest Voter Turnout was Winchester, which places near the middle at 24th.
The capital, London, did not rank in the top ten for any individual category, but placed 4th overall, with its highest individual scores being 11th place and 12th place for ULEV Registration and Search Trends respectively.
The top ten is well-populated by cities with a strong student presence, with Oxford, Brighton, London, Cambridge, Bristol, Leeds, Cardiff and Exeter all being home to major universities.
There are a few major cities which are notably absent from the top ten, like Edinburgh (16th), Birmingham (27th), Manchester (29th) and Glasgow (38th).
How do we measure the ‘wokeness’ of a city? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, to be woke is to be “alert to injustice in society”, or, “being ‘aware’ or ‘well informed’ in a political or cultural sense”. This is a concept that built its foundation upon racial injustice in the United States, introduced in Erykah Badu’s 2009 song Master Teacher (I Stay Woke), and was further popularised in 2014 by the Black Lives Matter movement. The term ‘woke’ then very rapidly expanded beyond issues surrounding only race relations – now tackling all socio-political issues, as well as issues surrounding sustainability and the environment.
The wokeness of a city can be monitored not only by its politics, but also through the kinds of shops, services and facilities that exist; the kinds of events that take place; the way the area is designed; and the way the community engages with these issues.
For our index, we broke things down into seven core categories. A score out of five was awarded for each category and these results were used to determine the total score for each region.
Google Trends allows us to observe how frequently users are searching for specific terms or phrases on Google. With the ability to filter results by region, we can use this data as an indicator of how a city’s residents interact with ideas surrounding wokeness online.
We researched search trends surrounding various terms to discern how prevalent these ideas are within the local community. We measured how frequently our chosen search terms were entered into Google’s search engine in the past five years for each city, relative to the site’s total search volume. This means that each data point is divided by the total number of searches in the area over the chosen time range to determine the term’s relative popularity.
The terms monitored were: LGBT, Fair Trade, Volunteering, Climate Change, Feminism, Protest, Sustainability, Charity, Human Rights and Politics.
Being woke means recognising the disparity in wages between men and women. We used data from the Office for National Statistics’ Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings, which outlines the difference between men’s and women’s hourly earnings – as a percentage of men’s earnings – and we then used the mean average for each city to calculate the final score.
Waste ain’t woke! Being conscious and cautious about how you deal with waste is a simple way to help care for the planet. For this category, we just had to look at the amount of household waste that was recycled for each city, as a percentage of the total household waste accumulated, using statistics collected from the Department for Environment, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, the Welsh Government and the Department of Agriculture for Northern Ireland.
To be woke, you’ve got to be politically active. No matter how loud you may cheer or boo, sitting on the sidelines won’t change the game – you’ve got to get on the pitch. Measuring voter turnout is a crucial means of assessing how engaged a community is with political issues. We compared the size of each electorate with the total number of votes in the 2017 General Election to determine how engaged the city is with politics.
Embracing vegetarianism and veganism, especially, is absolutely a signifier of wokeness – not least because there is clear evidence that producing meat for consumption has a much higher carbon footprint than plant-based diets. We counted the number of eateries offering exclusively vegan and vegetarian menus in each city, as listed on HappyCow.co.uk, and measured this against the city’s population to assess how accessible and popular vegan and vegetarian options are to its residents.
Being woke is also being aware of our carbon footprint and taking measures to reduce it. We took a very simple approach to monitoring a community’s efforts to reduce their CO2 emissions – calculating the number of cars on each city’s streets that have ULEV (ultra-low-emission vehicles) registration in proportion to the total population of the city. This data was gathered from a study by the Department of Transport. A ULEV is any vehicle that emits less than 75g of CO2 per kilometre – usually these are electric or hybrid cars.
A community should feel that they’re well-represented by their local council. Our approach to this category was to measure representation in local government for women and for minority groups. To do so, we first used the percentage of female councillors per locale as reported by the Fawcett Society in 2018. We combined this data with statistics on BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic) representation in local councils from an annual audit undertaken by Operation Black Vote. For those cities not observed within these studies, we conducted our own research. For this section, we used the disparity between the city’s BAME population and the percentage of BAME members in council. These statistics were then combined to determine the final score.
So, we're looking for a community which is politically active and mobile; which champions equality in the workplace and beyond; which handles its waste the right way; which makes it easy to avoid animal products; which control its carbon footprint; and whose diversity is well-represented by its local council. With a score for each category, we were able to determine the final scores to discover which UK city is truly the most woke.
Total household waste recycled as a percentage of total household waste collected
Department for Environment, ENV18, Local Authority Collected Waste From Households, 22017 (link)
Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Household Waste Data 2017 (link)
Welsh Government, Local Authority Municipal Waste Management, Annual reuse/recycling/composting rates by local authority 2107- 2018 (link)
The Department of Agriculture, Environment & Rural Affairs Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland local authority collected municipal waste management statistics 2017/18 annual report (link)
Population divided by number of Vegan/Vegetarian restaurants as listed on HappyCow.net on 10/07/19
Office for National Statistics - Major town and city population estimates for mid-2002 to mid-2017, November 2018 (link)
Office For National Statistics - Estimates of the population for the UK, England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, Mid-2018 (link)
This data set includes data for Bath & North East Somerset, County Durham, Cheshire West & Chester and County of Herefordshire. For purposes of this category we have used the most recent city based population estimates from the following sources:
Durham City (link)
Population divided by number of Ultra Low Emission Vehicles registered by the end of Q1 2019 ULEV registration
Department of Transport, VEH0132: Licensed ultra low emission vehicles by local authority: United Kingdom (link)
Population data (link)
Google Trends data for terms: “Fair Trade”, “Volunteering”, “LGBT”, “Climate Change”, “Feminism”, “Protest”, “Sustainability”, “Charity” , “Human Rights”
Trend data taken on 12/07/19 for UK over past five years (link)
Total electorate divided by turnout
General Election 2017, Detailed Results By Constituency (link)
Female Representation as a percentage of total local councillors
BAME representation as the differential between percentage of BAME councillors and percentage of non-white population within city
Female representation data
Fawcett Society, 2018 (link)
For cities not included in Fawcett report data has been inferred from local council websites
BAME representation data
Operation Black Vote, BAME Local Political Representation Audit 2019 (link)
For cities not included in OBV report data has been inferred from local council websites. All councils were contacted and given the opportunity to confirm inferred data.
Non-white population data
ONS, 2011 Census: Key Statistics and Quick Statistics for local authorities in the United Kingdom, KS201UK, Ethnic Group, local authorities in the United Kingdom (link)
Gender pay gap (GPG) - calculated as the difference between average hourly earnings (excluding overtime) of men and women as a proportion of average hourly earnings (excluding overtime) of men. For example, a 4% GPG denotes that women earn 4% less, on average, than men. Conversely, a -4% GPG denotes that women earn 4% more, on average, than men.
ONS, Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings, Gender Pay Gap 2018, PROV - Home Parliamentary Constituency Table 10.12 Gender pay gap 2018.xls (link)
N.B No individual reporting at city level for NI. NI regional value used for Belfast.