Wednesday, 30 May 2012

How many French people live in London?

According to the BBC London is now France's sixth biggest city: "The French consulate in London estimates between 300,000 and 400,000 French citizens live in the British capital" which compares to city populations as follows:
  • Paris - 2.3m
  • Marseille - 859,000
  • Lyon - 488,000
  • Toulouse - 447,000
  • Nice - 344,000
I've heard this kind of thing before and for some reason I've always liked this story (partly because as an urban economist I am interested in whether 'diversity' is one of the things that make cities work). But this morning I started to wonder if it is true.

The French consulate has 120,000 people registered with it but assess the real number living in the UK as 300,000-400,000 (this is the figure above). But according to the ONS there are 133,000 French nationals resident in the UK (for Oct 2010 - Sept 2011, see table 2.3). We are told that the ONS numbers are 'reasonably precise' (they have a standard error of about 8,000 giving a 95% confidence interval of plus or minus 16,000). Personally, I prefer the ONS numbers because at least we are told how they arrived at them.

So let's assume that all 133,000 are living in London (which is clearly a big assumption). Comparing this figure to the population of French metro-areas* makes London the 43rd biggest city in France. Even taking the French consulates estimates and comparing it to metro-areas puts London somewhere around 20th. Interesting, I suppose, but a little disappointing and certainly not as interesting as the BBC make out ...

*[Most urban economists (and the US census bureau) prefer the 'metro' to administrative numbers because they are more reasonably based on the 'functional' city - so Paris population is around 11m making it roughly the same size as London].

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

House prices and the Diamond Jubilee

I notice that the Times the latest paper to pick up on changes to the housing market over the last sixty years (£). HSBC put out something similar last week. These articles show very large increases in house prices (both real and nominal). This inspired me to go and dig out two great figures from my colleague Paul Cheshire that put this growth in context.

1. Growth in real house prices a post-war phenomena.

The figure shows real house price growth since 1892 (1975=100). Notice that the incredible growth in real house prices is relatively recent. Before the war (and the introduction of the town and country planning act) real prices were flat despite large growth in population. The figure also shows that land price growth has been even more spectacular. [I think this uses data from the land registry].

2. Plenty of other European countries manage low real growth (through a combination of market sensitive planning and incentives for development).

The figure shows house prices (with 1970=100) for a number of EU countries.  Spain and Ireland show big bubbles - high house price growth and high building numbers. But the UK is experiencing the first, without the latter, suggesting that long run price movements results from the fundamental underlying problem of rising demand with restricted supply.