Localities in which there is a markedly high level of disadvantage are often characterised in terms of perceived behavioural shortcomings - things like residents’ lack of commitment to improving their situation, indifferent motivation generally, unlawful conduct, and parents’ inadequate attention to child rearing. Indeed, surface appearances of the kinds mentioned are used to justify a view that the dominant cause of residents' plight resides in their moral slackness and own defective personal choices.
Researches in which such judgements have been suspended and an attempt made to identify the foundations of locational disadvantage have come to different conclusions. They have found that much more is involved than the compounding of individual laxity. For example, two priority concerns of DEEWR, namely, education and employment, were to the fore in the earliest formal investigations of the geographic concentration of social disadvantage. One hundred and fifty years after Mayhew (1861) mapped the spatial concentrations of illiteracy, unemployment, crime and teenage marriage in England and Wales, there is ample evidence that concentrations of the kind he discovered continue to be a feature of our Australian social landscape. Indeed, there is evidence of a growing concentration of urban poverty in Australia and, in Gregory and Hunter’s (1995) terms these areas are developing their own 'pathologies’, the consequence being a cycle of increasing disadvantage.