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Urban inequalities and social justice

Understanding the nature of urban change across the globe and the impact on urban dwellers lives 

Our urban environments are constantly changing and we live in an increasingly borderless world. Urban development and investment in one location is increasingly tied to a series of decisions and connections that spread across regions and nations and involve a wide variety of actors and stakeholders (public and private; formal and informal; local and multinational etc.). The impact of these decisions is felt in varied and (often) unexpected ways by local communities on the ground.

We have a strong focus on issues of growth and social justice in both the Global North and the Global South. We explore the links between economic growth and social cohesion through the lens of housing policy and infrastructure investment. We also examine how social segregation manifests itself both amongst the poor and the ‘super rich’ within developed societies. In relation to the Global South, we consider how ‘informal’ lives and livelihoods challenge official accounts of the city and its development and how a better understanding of urban governance might be used to challenge processes of political marginalisation.

Making sense of processes of spatial interaction is central to the way in which we understand people and places. Increasingly, we use large datasets to help us more accurately define (and visualise) key societal problems and, in turn, consider how policy interventions play out differently in different places.

Featured projects

Living the urban periphery

Life in urban peripheries is characterised by unevenness in economic and political terms, and challenges in terms of provision of, and access to, infrastructure; yet there is little understanding of how or why this occurs. In partnership with colleagues at Wits University (South Africa) we are embarking on a major new study of the ‘lived experience’ of residents at the periphery of cities in South Africa and Ethiopia. We aim to understand how urban change in the peripheries of African cities is shaped, governed and experienced, and how these processes then impact on urban poverty. 

Find out more about the Living the urban periphery project

Find out more about Paula Meth's and Tom Goodfellow's research

Life in the 'alpha territory' 

Social research has tended not to focus on the super-rich; yet the actions and decisions of the most affluent people in our society has an impact on us all. Our research into how super-rich neighbourhoods operate, how people come to live there and the social and economic tensions and trade-offs that result offers a complex picture of life in the ‘alpha territory’. By exposing the ‘problem’ of super-rich neighbourhoods, we seek to inform and shape debates about how socially vital cities can be maintained whilst the distance between rich and poor gets wider.

Find out more about Rowland Atkinson's research

You may also be interested in - 'Squatting London' a Leverfulme Fellowship project led by Sam Burgum

Welfare conditionality: sanctions, support and behaviour change

Within and beyond the UK, the use of conditional welfare arrangements that combine elements of sanction and support is now well established. However, little is known about the extent to which linking welfare rights to responsibilities may bring about positive changes in people’s lives. As part of a major ESRC-funded study, our research is helping to fill gaps in knowledge and will inform policy and practice about the effectiveness and ethics of welfare conditionality.

Find out more about the Welfare Conditionality project

Find out more about John Flint's research

Featured publications

Limited exposure: Social concealment, mobility and engagement with public space by the super-rich in London

How do the wealthiest inhabitants in one of the world’s wealthiest cities engage with public settings? Rowland Atkinson examines the place and impact of the super-rich in London and considers how this group relates to its others, how they traverse urban spaces and their feelings about the value and relative dangers of the city.

Neighbourhood cohesion under the influx of migrants in Shanghai

According to the National Bureau of Statistics in China, there are 247 million rural migrants living in urban China. Recent research undertaken by Zheng Wang explores the impact of migration in Shanghai - and questions assumptions about declining social cohesion in urban China.

Gypsy-travellers/Roma and social integration: childhood, habitus and the 'we/I balance'

Differing processes of childhood and family socialisation are crucial in explaining how Gypsy-traveller/Roma groups have maintained their own group identity and cultural continuity under pressures to assimilate and conform. In this paper, Ryan Powell applies Norbert Elias' theories on childhood and individualisation to Gypsy-traveller/Roma groups in Europe and situates them within a long-term established-outsider figuration.