Anarchy in the U.K.: Economic Deprivation, Social Disorganization, and Political Grievances in the London Riot of 2011

Juta Kawalerowicz and Michael Biggs

Social Forces, vol. 94, no. 2, 2015, 673–98;

How rioting varied with deprivation, disorganization, and grievances Thousands rioted in London in August 2011, with the police losing control of parts of the city for four days. This event was not an ethnic riot: participants were ethnically diverse and did not discriminate in choosing targets for looting or destruction. Whereas the sociological literature has focused on variation in rioting across cities, we examine variation within London by mapping the residential addresses of 1,620 rioters—who were subsequently arrested and charged—on to 25,022 neighborhoods. Our findings challenge the orthodoxy that rioting is not explained by deprivation or by disorganization. Rioters were most likely to come from economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. Rioters also tended to come from neighborhoods where ethnic fractionalization was high, and from areas with few charitable organizations. Political grievances also emerge as important. Rioters were more likely to come from boroughs where the police had previously been perceived as disrespectful.


Michael Biggs, Department of Sociology, University of Oxford