Spatial Networks and Urban Inequality

Authors: Joseph Galaskiewicz*, University of Arizona, Kathryn Anderson*, University of Houston, Kendra Thompson-Dyck, University of Arizona
Topics: Urban Geography, Spatial Analysis & Modeling
Keywords: urban,inequality,spatial networks
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Evergreen, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Urbanists are in agreement that where people live affects their life chances and opportunities (Dreier, 2014). Logan (2012) described this phenomenon as spatial inequality. In Sociology the focus has been on how racial, ethnic, and class segregation restricts the access of minorities to jobs, services, and consumer goods. Research has found that levels of racial residential segregation are correlated with racial inequality (Massey and Fischer 2000; Firebaugh and Farrell 2016).
We argue that the location of jobs, services, and consumer goods and spatial networks are also important factors in restricting access. The imagery of the city is one of a network, where places are nodes and streets, subway/rail systems, sidewalks, etc. that connect places are the arcs. Places are either richly endowed with resources or barren. Depending on actors’ locations in spatial networks, they have spatial capital or the ability to effectively and efficiently access places where valued resources in the urbanized area are located (Marcus, 2010). We further argue that the spatial capital of entire metropolitan areas is a function of their having a plethora of valued resources and an efficient transportation system that enables residents to access them.

We present two applications to illustrate our arguments. First we examine the access of different socio-economic and racial groups to medical services in the Phoenix-metropolitan area. Second, looking at a sample of metropolitan areas, we show that an efficient transportation network can reduce the impact of segregation on black/white income inequality. We conclude discussing the policy implications of our research.

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