The Legatum Institute, an international think tank based in London, published its first ever ‘Geography of Prosperity’ Index, comparing the prosperity of 170 areas across Britain. 

The Outer Hebrides (5th), Orkney Islands (6th), Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire (9th), and the Shetland Islands (10th), all beat areas like Surrey and Oxfordshire into the top 10.

  • People living in the Outer Hebrides are the happiest in the UK
  • The Outer Hebrides, Orkneys, Shetlands, and Aberdeen & Aberdeenshire all rank in the top ten, helping Scotland beat England’s level of average prosperity. However, both are beaten by Northern Ireland, where high life-satisfaction scores see them enjoy their highest levels of prosperity in the UK.
  • Scotland’s top performers contain some of the wealthiest parts of the UK. The oil industry helps boost average incomes in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire to around £34,600—the 13th highest in the UK. They also contain some of the poorest. Incomes in the Outer Hebrides are just £15,000 a year (135th out of 170). The islands’ residents from Lewis to Barra are however the happiest in the UK, followed by Orkney Islanders, who rank 2nd.

The Index reveals a number of other interesting findings:

  • London contains 4 out of the 5 most prosperous areas in the country but also 3 out of the 10 least prosperous areas including Croydon, Brent and Bexley & Greenwich. Inner London contains 9 out of the top 10 wealthiest areas. People in Hammersmith & Fulham and Kensington & Chelsea have an average income of £133,000 a year. However, 4 of the 10 most miserable areas in the country are in London: Haringey and Islington, Croydon, Camden & the City of London and Brent.
  • Wales contains 3 out of 10 of the least wealthy parts of the UK. People living in Anglesey have the lowest incomes in the country—£11,200 a year—below the annual national minimum wage, while the Gwent Valleys (£12,300) and South West Wales (£13,300) are also near the bottom when it comes to income. Wales is also the most miserable of the four nations of the United Kingdom.
  • Some of the happiest people in Britain live in Northern Ireland. Three areas - West and South of Northern Ireland (3rd), Outer Belfast (=4th) and East of Northern Ireland (=10th)—were in the top ten in the entire UK when it came to life-satisfaction. Northern Ireland is, however, also the second poorest of the four nations of the United Kingdom. People in Northern Ireland have an average income of £17,900 a year, whereas people in England have an income of £23,800.

The most prosperous places in the UK are:

1.    Hammersmith & Fulham and Kensington & Chelsea

2.    Westminster

3.    Wandsworth

4.    Camden and the City of London

5.    Outer Hebrides (Eilean Sar)

The least prosperous places in the UK are:

1.    Wolverhampton

2.    Sandwell (West Midlands)

3.    Blackpool

4.    Liverpool

5.    East Derbyshire

The findings come a week before the Legatum Institute unveils its 2015 global Prosperity Index.

Sian Hansen, Executive Director of the Legatum Institute said:

“The “Geography of Prosperity” index reveals that prosperity is about more than just wealth—it is about feeling that one’s life is worthwhile. The data shows that Scotland secures four top spots, predominantly due to very high levels of life-satisfaction. Residents of the Outer Hebrides have the highest levels of satisfaction with their lives in the whole country.”
“Yet, areas like Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire rank highly because the oil industry boosts average earnings considerably, but so too because the area has reasonably high life-satisfaction. The index shows that while robust economic success can make an area prosperous, this in itself is not enough. Some of the most prosperous areas of the country are those where, regardless of their income, people have the opportunity to lead healthy, fulfilling and prosperous lives.”

Notes to Editors

  1. The Geography of Prosperity Index ranks 170 areas in the UK based on combining the results of two different data sets. Firstly, Eurostat’s data on gross domestic product for UK local areas and secondly, the ONS’ well-being statistics. Both datasets are aggregated at the Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics (NUTS) 3 level. A full methodology document is available at
  2. A digital map of each of the 170 areas covered in the Index is available on the website.


Media Enquiries

For more information, please contact Nick Faith at the Legatum Institute (P: +44 (0) 7960 996 233)

About the Legatum Institute

The Legatum Institute is an international think tank and educational charity focused on promoting prosperity. We do this by researching our core themes of revitalising capitalism and democracy. The Legatum Prosperity Index™, our signature publication, ranks 142 countries in terms of wealth and wellbeing. For more information please go to and

Regional Press Releases

Media Coverage

  • Wolverhampton the least prosperous place in Britain, The Independent (View)
  • 'Four out of five of Britain's most prosperous areas are in London', Evening Standard (View)
  • Britain's most prosperous postcodes are in London, City A.M. (View)
  • Woe-verhampton—West Midlands city revealed as unhappiest place in Britain, The Sun (View)
  • Wolverhampton is least 'prosperous' part of Britain says report, Daily Mail (View)
  • Scotland’s islands are ‘happiest places to live in UK’, The Scotsman (View)
  • Want to feel prosperous? Move to London or the Outer Hebrides, International Business Times (View)
  • Least and most prosperous places in Britain named - where does your area feature? Mirror (View)