Stacked affluence: how vertical neighbourhoods shape the segregation of affluence in Brazilian cities

For an upper-middle class household in Latin America, residing in an apartment tower  with good access to jobs, services and amenities seems like a natural choice. In cities with high levels of congestion, low decentralization of jobs, highly concentrated amenities, and few transport alternatives, vertical neighborhoods appear as the demand for access of the more affluent grows.  In fact, many well-to-do neighborhoods in Latin American cities are also vertical neighborhoods.

In recent work on income segregation in Brazilian cities, published in the OECD report Divided Cities: Understanding Intra-Urban Inequalities, I explore whether verticalization bears any relationship with the high observed levels of segregation of the affluent. Preliminary visual evidence for some cities, including Rio de Janeiro, clearly points to a correlation between the percentage of affluent people and the percentage of people residing in apartment towers across neighborhoods.


To test the relationship between concentration in vertical neighborhoods and income segregation, I construct an index of exposure to dwellers in other type of buildings and a measure of segregation of affluence based on an ordinal entropy index. I find that vertical neighborhoods are indeed part of the explanation behind the segregation of the affluent in Brazilian cities, even after controlling for city size, income inequality and other city-level variables. Whether land use regulations have encouraged the surge of vertical neighborhoods concentrating high income households, and how can they be used to ensure affordable housing in central areas in Latin American cities are two interesting questions for future research.


Income segregation in cities: A reflection on the gap between concept and measurement

On a recent commentary on  Jean‑Michel Floch’s article “Standards of living and segregation in twelve French metropolises” I propose that

  • While income segregation and the segregation of poverty are wrongly assumed to be the same in the public debate, the segregation of affluence remains insufficiently debated
  • There is no benchmark for establishing how much segregation is “too much” segregation, especially in large cities in developed countries
  • Although segregation is often related to being far from “where things happen”,
    segregation indicators do not measure the level of physical disconnection between
    income groups, or inequalities in provision between poor and affluent areas

Working with Origin-Destination data in R made easier by stplanr

My co-author Robin Lovelace has recently made available  a new version of his R package stplanr, which helps processing and visualizing Origin-Destination transport data in R. It integrates the useful dist_google function to get network distances and time using the Google Maps API, which we used in our accessibility to schools in São Paulo paper. Highly recommended!

New Working Paper on Income Segregation and Urban Spatial Structure

A working paper co-authored with Miquel Àngel García López entitled “Income Segregation and Urban Spatial Structure: Evidence from Brazil” is now available as part of the CAF Working Paper Series. In this work, we estimate the effect of urban spatial structure on income segregation in using data for 121 Brazilian cities between 2000 and 2010. We show how the effect of local density varies between monocentric and polycentric cities, and between income groups.

This paper is part of a line of research trying to link the distribution of employment within cities with the distribution of the population by income groups, in order to understand the possible causes of residential segregation by level of income in urban areas.


Informality in the City: A Theoretical Analysis

Looking for theoretical guidance in the urban economics literature when analyzing problems of cities with large informality rates can be quite challenging. Most models have been designed for urban realities where there is no informal employment or informal housing, both of which are hard to ignore in cities in emerging and developing countries. The outstanding doctoral thesis of Héctor Mauricio Posada explores innovative ways in which informality can be incorporated into existing theoretical urban models to study questions related to urban expansion, transport provision and migration, among others. The thesis leads to many interesting insights that serve as basis for much needed future theoretical work, and identifies relevant connections that can be translated into empirically testable predictions.