Exploring economic resilience

2 March 2018

City Region Exchange report examines households’ perceptions of their economic resilience in the face of unexpected financial setbacks.

Dr Adrian Healy and Professor Gill Bristow, from Cardiff University’s School of Geography and Planning, have undertaken research across the Cardiff Capital Region examining households' perception of their own economic circumstances and their surrounding area, and how this might influence their behaviour and action.

Building resilient communities, primarily resilience to economic shocks and setbacks, is a key objective for policymakers in Wales. However, many studies of economic resilience focus on tangible assets (such as income) as a guide to assessing capacity to withstand financial challenges and pay little attention to households’ own perceptions of their capacity to manage change.

Dr Healy argues that: “The policy debate often overlooks how households and communities perceive their own economic circumstances and that of their surrounding area or region. The purpose of our investigation was to better understand perceptions held by households across the Cardiff Capital Region.”

During 2017, a survey of 1,000 residents of the Cardiff Capital Region was undertaken to discover how respondents perceived their own economic circumstances, their local area and how they felt they might respond to a future economic setback. The results provide valuable context and information for future policy debate and strategy development.

The survey highlighted a pervasive sense of worry and uncertainty across the region, heightened by the Brexit vote. It showed that:

  • residents do not believe that the benefits of economic growth are visible in their area, and few believed this would change in the following 12 months;
  • and almost half of all households believe they have less money to spend now than they did five years ago.

However, despite the sense of uncertainty, residents were more positive regarding their own economic prospects feeling that their job is secure and confident of being able to maintain their standard of living. While 29% did not have something put aside for an unexpected event they identified coping strategies which included turning to family and friends for support. Local authorities and government were not perceived to be a primary source of support in the event of an economic setback.

The importance of the local area was also clear in survey responses. Despite a view that there were few job opportunities locally, respondents were highly attached to the place they loved, valuing its accessibility, proximity to family and friends and the surrounding environment.

Dr Healy concluded: “It is evident from our research that building resilient communities requires a deeper understanding of households’ and communities’ personal perceptions of economic welfare and wellbeing. It is also important to consider their strong attachment to place.

“Without this insight, it is likely that economic strategy-making and policy development will fail to address the real issues affecting residents and be founded on unrealistic or outdated assumptions regarding behaviours and values.”

The research was funded by an Impact Accelerator Award from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and internal funding from Cardiff University’s City Region Exchange.

Read the full working paper, Economic Resilience in our Communities, by Dr Healy and Professor Bristow.

For more information visit the School webpages.