Growing levels of socioeconomic and ethnic segregation (SEG) can seriously harm social inclusion and ethnic integration, economic competitiveness of cities, and increase concerns about safety and the intergenerational transmission of (dis)advantage (OECD 2018). According to the ‘Urban Agenda for the EU’, spatial SEG is one of the key challenges in European cities.

The key innovation in this project is to systematically study SEG in all life domains, in places of residence, in schools, at work, and in leisure, making it relevant for social sciences at large despite its mainly geographic focus.

We will use a unique combination of census, register and smartphone data which for the first time will allow a detailed study of mobility and SEG across multiple domains. As a result of the project, we will develop new methodologies and gain new knowledge on:

(a) the space-time trajectories of different ethnic and socioeconomic groups across multiple domains; the extent of

(b) the co-presence of different socioeconomic and ethnic groups in those domains; and

(c) social interaction across those groups in different domains.


The concept of ‘Vicious Circles of Segregation’ (VCS)

The starting point for our conceptual framework is the concept of vicious circles of segregation (VCS) (Van Ham and Tammaru 2016; Van Ham et al 2018). According to this concept, SEG is correlated in different domains. From a geographic perspective, domains comprise all activity sites in a given urban region; all residential neighbourhoods form the residential domain, all workplaces form the work domain, all schools form the school domain, and all leisure sites form the leisure domain. For each of the domains SEG can be measured by socioeconomic status and ethnicity. SEG in different domains is a result of in situ changes (cf Finney and Simpson 2009), coupled by

(a) the micro-level sorting of individuals with particular characteristics into activity sites, and

(b) contextual effects on individual outcomes as a result of exposure to and interaction with other people (neighbours, friends, colleagues, classmates, etc) in these activity sites (Van Ham et al 2018).

The contextual effects shape various factors, including the individual’s choice which, in turn, is related to future sorting into activity sites. Policies that are related to different domains, individual resources and preferences, and discrimination all serve to affect the sorting processes into activity sites, and hence SEG (Hulchanski 2010; Kährik and Tammaru 2008; Leetmaa et al 2015). The sorting into activity sites is further structured by time and space (Hägerstrand 1970; Silm and Ahas 2014; Van Ham et al 2018).

The VCS evolves over the life course and is partly inter-generational, leading to place stratification (Portes and Rumbaut 1996) in all domains (Van Ham et al 2018). A child is born in a neighbourhood in which that child’s parents can afford to live. As time passes, the child will likely go to a local school and this may transmit residential SEG to school SEG (Bernelius and Vaattovaara 2016). Educational inequality, the sorting into schools, and school characteristics all have an effect on outcomes later in life.

This affects the sorting into workplaces and the incomes that people earn later in life (Lam et al 2017) which, in turn, shapes in which neighbourhoods individuals can afford to live (Hulchanski 2010). Socioeconomic status and ethnicity are important individual characteristics in the sorting process (Bolt and Van Kempen 2010). Furthermore, for ethnic minorities, improved socioeconomic status can be an important factor that helps to break the VCS (Alba and Nee 2003).

The mechanisms for sorting and exposure are more diverse within individual lives though. For example, as people enter the family stage, school quality can be an important factor in the housing search process (Owens et al 2017).

All individual visits to the activity sites form the activity space for the person in question (Golledge and Stimson 1997). The sorting into activity sites is shaped by urban planning, for instance in how various types of housing, workplaces, schools, and leisure time activity sites are spatially distributed across the urban region (Van Ham and Tammaru 2016).

For most people, their place of residence is a central activity site from where daily activities usually start and end (Silm et al 2018). Proximity and connectivity (ie. accessibility) shape the daily trajectories of individuals in space, as undertaking activities closer to places of residence or other central activity sites costs less time and money (cf Hägerstrand 1970).

For the elderly, ethnic minorities, and low-income people, the residential neighbourhood is usually the most important arena for daily interaction (Bolt and van Kempen 2017). For those employed, the location of the workplace (Kamenik et al 2015) and for children the location of the school (Bernelius and Vaattovaara 2016) can also be important.


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