Challenging Conventional Policy Wisdom
Chapter 3: Residential segregation and people sorting within cities
Tackling poverty and the relationship between poverty and place have both become key issues for policy (Hills 2007). They are also one of the central focuses of this book. In the last chapter, we talked about the role that sorting-the tendency of different types of people to live in different places-played in driving spatial disparities in economic performance across cities. This chapter changes spatial focus to look at residential segregation and sorting within cities. In Chapter 2 we identified three channels through which spatial linkages worked: trade, commuting patterns (and changes in them) and migration of people or relocations of firms. The second of these is very low cost; workers can easily change their patterns of commuting as the spatial patterns of job availability change. So spatial adjustment between neighbourhoods within cities is relatively low cost and highly responsive to differential opportunities. The result is that within cities, sorting plays an even more important role in understanding spatial disparities than it does across cities. This has fundamental implications for both our understanding of disparities and for the formulation of effective urban policy. It is extremely worrying, therefore, that the role of sorting is so poorly understood in both popular and policy debate. Indeed, given the popular discussion of social facts which reflect segregation it would seem that explanations other than sorting are all but universally assumed to be 'true'.
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