Spatial Inequality

  • Overview of Social Inequality
  • The resources in a society are unevenly distributed.
    • Wealth in US, top 20% have 72% of the wealth of the country and bottom 20% only control 3%
    • Upper, middle, and lower class. Based on incomes.
    • As you go up the social ladder, have better access to education, healthcare, and housing.
  • Groups of population disproportionality affected – ethnic/racial minorities have greater degrees of inequality as manifested by lower incomes, lower education, and reduced access to healthcare.
    • Those in poverty also face considerable barriers to obtaining the same healthcare, education, and other resources as others.
    • Gender does too. Females experience differences in pay (gender-pay gap), and the glass ceiling effect (poorly represented in higher position in companies)
  • People may feel increasingly socially excluded, live in segregated neighbourhoods, and feel politically disempowered.
    • Can lead to civil unrest, and tempt people into criminal activities.
  • Ways to help: government schemes (ex. Food stamps), improve access to education/healthcare, and figure out social interventions that allow integration to society.


  • Residential Segregation
  • Residential segregation – groups of people separate into different neighbourhoods.
    • Can mean race or income.
    • Where we live affects our life chances, because it affects our politics, healthcare, availability to education, etc.
  • Other forms of segregation:

1) Concentration – there’s clustering of different groups

2) Centralizationsegregation + clustering in a central area.

  • Index of dissimilarity – 0 is total segregation, and 100 perfect distribution.
  • Why is residential segregation important?
    • Political isolation – Communities segregated are politically weak because their political interests don’t overlap with other communities – become political vulnerable, don’t have the political influence to keep their own needs addressed.
    • Linguistic isolation – Communities who are isolated may develop own language, even in same city. May limit jobs.
      • Lower access to quality education/heath
    • Spatial mismatch – opportunities for low-income people in segregated communities may be present but farther away, and harder to access. Gap between where people live and where opportunities are.
  • Global Inequality
  • The world is extremely unequal.
    • Life expectancy is Congo is 51 vs. France/Japan is 84. Tremendous range.
    • Access to clean water – in Africa, very difficult. In US/Europe very easy.
  • Champagne glass can help explain inequalities in wealth we see. It represents the distribution of wealth.
    • Top 1/5th have 82.7% of the global income.
    • Poorest 1/5th have 1.4% of global income.
    • Richest 85 people in world have more wealth than the poorest 3.5 billion people in the world.
  • Inequalities in individual countries as well, ex. very poor countries can have a few extremely rich people.
    • Maternal mortality rate is a marker for healthcare systems.
      • In NA and Europe 10-20 people per 100 000 die of childbirth.
      • In SA 75/100 000
      • SE Asia, 170/100 000.
      • Central Africa 700+/100 000.
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