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Rowland Atkinson and Hang Kei Ho

This chapter seeks to relate processes of segregation to the geographies and networks of the wealthiest social groups in urban contexts. We consider how the wealthy are concentrated and distributed in urban space in complex spatial formations that allow maximal extraction of spatial dividends and minimal contact with risk or unpleasantness. Theories of segregation that seek to express a kind of social compression in urban space appear to operate just as well for the urban rich. However, the social, economic and cultural capital of the wealthy act to nullify or indeed reverse the kinds of negative aspects of place associated with concentrated poverty. Address, personal standing and social networks offer forms of advantage and resource for the rich. We offer a broad sketch of the grounded social geographies of the super-rich while noting the important role played by strategic mobilities that help to manage the encounters with difference by the very wealthy. We argue that these geographies, networks and mobilities are context-specific. Particular cities and fractions of the very wealthy themselves show varying patterns of centrality, dispersion and indeed relative isolation – generalisation is difficult. We conclude by briefly discussing the urban politics of wealth segregation when set alongside anxieties regarding how to devise policies designed to tackle concentrated poverty and disadvantage.

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Rowland Atkinson, Roger Burrows and David Rhodes