Spaces of inequality: It’s not differentiation, it is inequality! A socio-spatial analysis of the City of Porto

Sónia Alves


As territorial magnets for people and activities, cities simultaneously concentrate opportunities (e.g. employment, consumption, entertainment) and problems (e.g. unemployment, lack of affordable housing, crime). As a result, they can be regarded as complex social systems, which to some extent are characterized by, and are a source of, inequalities. By analysing the issue of inequality from a socio-spatial perspective, this article aims to show that the post-industrial city is changing insofar as social and spatial disparities are increasing on the basis of income and political influence. The article consists of two parts. The first addresses the issue of inequality and the city, providing a review of the literature on the relationship between social and spatial inequalities. The second is empirical, focusing upon the city of Porto and exploring several intersecting ideas related to the selective processes of de-concentration (or suburbanization) of people and activities, and the way they shape the separation of classes across geographical space. The results confirm the initial hypotheses of increasing socio-spatial inequality in Porto, in a context in which public policies are not geared towards the goal of mitigating socio-economic but are shaped inversely by consolidated economic disparities.


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