Bringing Inequality Closer: A Comparative Urban Sociology of Socially Diverse Neighborhoods
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This research looks at and compares two historically segregated global-north and global-south cities: Chicago and Santiago de Chile. I study one diverse neighborhood in each place, in order to understand the relationship between neighborhood social diversity and several dimensions of socio-spatial integration. The hypothesis was that if other exclusionary processes remain unchanged, the mere physical proximity between different social groups should lead to incomplete outcomes of integration for poor groups. I conducted a one year-long comparative case-study, complementing qualitative with quantitative techniques, and trying to critically differentiate theories and policies from their specific contexts. Data collection involved collection of case-history literature; collection of spatial and socioeconomic information; and most importantly, qualitative case-studies employing in-depth interviews, field observations, and spatial inventories. I compared the outcomes of diversity in both cases, focusing on the main factors that mark segregation and integration in each country and city; namely, a) social stratification systems, b) housing allocation systems and c) welfare systems in space. The main discovery from the study of both cases is that physical proximity of different social groups, irrespective of the urban processes that bring them together, does not directly create the outcomes that supporters of poverty dispersion policies believed at first; that is, social networks, social control, role models and an expanded geography of opportunities. At least, these spatial configurations do not bring those benefits by themselves. In other words, the social diversity of the studied neighborhoods is not a precondition of enhanced opportunities, better intergroup relationships or less exclusion from the housing market. In fact, the opposite has been true. Lower status groups in both cases: i) have limited job opportunities, ii) have limited access to quality education, iii) have highly difficult intergroup relationships with upper status groups, and iv) suffer from exclusionary housing and political economic processes. All these bring implications for the wide separation between discourse and reality regarding neighborhood diversity (including its concealment of power differentials), and the supposed reversal of the outcomes of concentrated poverty, which challenges the literature on 'neighborhood effects'.