This paper explores the rationale for area targeting and the growth of new area-based initiatives. The author examines the geographical concentration of deprivation, the extent, and whether there is a polarisation between areas. The evidence confirms that there is a clear rationale for area-based approaches, although it should not be assumed that they will be the most effective means to improve conditions in all cases. The evidence suggests that there should be a closer link between area-based approaches and national level main programmes, given the time-limited nature of the former and the fact that they only reach a minority of all deprived people. The issues involved in identifying the target areas are also reviewed including the question of who decides and on what basis. It is concluded that understanding the spatial distribution of deprivation is crucial and that there is an urgent need for better, more up-to-date statistical and other data relating to small geographical areas.