Urban Economics and Urban Policy
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Urban Economics and Urban Policy

Challenging Conventional Policy Wisdom

Paul C. Cheshire, Max Nathan and Henry G. Overman

In this bold, exciting and readable volume, Paul Cheshire, Max Nathan and Henry Overman illustrate the insights that recent economic research brings to our understanding of cities, and the lessons for urban policy-making. The authors present new evidence on the fundamental importance of cities to economic wellbeing and to the enrichment of our lives. They also argue that many policies have been trying to push water uphill and have done little to achieve their stated aims; or, worse, have had unintended and counterproductive consequences.
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Chapter 3: Residential segregation and people sorting within cities

Paul C. Cheshire, Max Nathan and Henry G. Overman


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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