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Social Polarisation in Global Cities: Theory and Evidence


  • Chris Hamnett

    (Department of Geography, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA, UK)


This paper examines the debate over social polarisation in global cities. It focuses on the claims made by Sassen that the processes of economic change in such cities are leading to a growing polarisation of the occupational and income structures whereby there is absolute growth at both the top and bottom ends of the distribution and a decline in the middle of the distribution. It is argued that while these claims may hold true for New York and Los Angeles, possibly because of their very high levels of immigration and the creation of large numbers of low skilled and low paid jobs, her attempt to extend the thesis to all global cities is problematic. In other cities professionalisaton appears to be dominant. Evidence on occupational change in Randstad Holland is presented to support this argument.

Suggested Citation

  • Chris Hamnett, 1994. "Social Polarisation in Global Cities: Theory and Evidence," Urban Studies, Urban Studies Journal Limited, vol. 31(3), pages 401-424, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:urbstu:v:31:y:1994:i:3:p:401-424

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    Cited by:

    1. Maarten Loopmans, 2008. "Book Review," European Planning Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 16(1), pages 157-161, January.
    2. Jo Williams, 2007. "Innovative solutions for averting a potential resource crisis—the case of one-person households in England and Wales," Environment, Development and Sustainability: A Multidisciplinary Approach to the Theory and Practice of Sustainable Development, Springer, vol. 9(3), pages 325-354, August.
    3. Thomas Maloutas, 2007. "Segregation, Social Polarization and Immigration in Athens during the 1990s: Theoretical Expectations and Contextual Difference," International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 31(4), pages 733-758, December.
    4. Neumann, Uwe, 2013. "Are My Neighbours Ageing Yet? Local Dimensions of Demographic Change in German Cities," EconStor Open Access Articles, ZBW - German National Library of Economics, pages 189-209.
    5. Szymon Marcińczak & Michael Gentile & Samuel Rufat & Liviu Chelcea, 2014. "Urban Geographies of Hesitant Transition: Tracing Socioeconomic Segregation in Post-Ceauşescu Bucharest," International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(4), pages 1399-1417, July.
    6. Zwiers, Merle & Kleinhans, Reinout & van Ham, Maarten, 2015. "Divided Cities: Increasing Socio-Spatial Polarization within Large Cities in the Netherlands," IZA Discussion Papers 8882, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    7. Uwe Neumann, 2012. "Are My Neighbours Ageing Yet? Local Dimensions of Demographic Change in German Cities," Ruhr Economic Papers 0319, Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Universität Dortmund, Universität Duisburg-Essen.
    8. Chris Hamnett, 2011. "Urban Social Polarization," Chapters,in: International Handbook of Globalization and World Cities, chapter 32 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    9. Flüchter, Winfried, 1997. "Tôkyô quo vadis? Chancen und Grenzen (?) metropolitanen Wachstums," Working Papers on East Asian Studies 15/1997, University of Duisburg-Essen, Institute of East Asian Studies IN-EAST.
    10. Ian Richard Gordon & Ioannis Kaplanis, 2014. "Accounting for Big-City Growth in Low-Paid Occupations: Immigration and/or Service-Class Consumption," Economic Geography, Clark University, vol. 90(1), pages 67-90, January.
    11. Ruth Lupton & Anne Power, 2004. "What We Know about Neighbourhood Change: A literature review," CASE Reports casereport27, Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, LSE.
    12. repec:zbw:rwirep:0319 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. ziye na & Mingwei Liu, 2012. "Spatial Transformation in Shanghai: the strategy, institutional arrangement and planning procedures - the case of EXPO 2010," ERSA conference papers ersa12p889, European Regional Science Association.
    14. Thomas MALOUTAS, 2014. "Social And Spatial Impact Of The Crisis In Athens - From Clientelist Regulation To Sovereign Debt Crisis," Region et Developpement, Region et Developpement, LEAD, Universite du Sud - Toulon Var, vol. 39, pages 149-166.
    15. Po‐Fen Tai, 2010. "Beyond ‘Social Polarization’? A Test for Asian World Cities in Developmental States," International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 34(4), pages 743-761, December.
    16. Gordon, Ian R. & Kaplanis, Ioannis, 2014. "Accounting for big-city growth in low-paid occupations: immigration and/or service-class consumption," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 55716, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    17. Caroline Nagel, 2011. "Cultural Diasporas," Chapters,in: International Handbook of Globalization and World Cities, chapter 36 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    18. Hedberg, Charlotta, 2008. "Entrance, Exit and Exclusion: Labour Market Flows of Foreign Born Adults in Swedish "Divided Cities"," SULCIS Working Papers 2008:1, Stockholm University, Linnaeus Center for Integration Studies - SULCIS.
    19. Gerhard Hatz, 2009. "Features And Dynamics Of Socio-Spatial Differentiation In Vienna And The Vienna Metropolitan Region," Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie, Royal Dutch Geographical Society KNAG, vol. 100(4), pages 485-501, September.
    20. Kurt Geppert, 1996. "Ballungsräume in den USA - anhaltende Reurbanisation?," Vierteljahrshefte zur Wirtschaftsforschung / Quarterly Journal of Economic Research, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research, vol. 65(2), pages 156-171.
    21. van Ham, Maarten & Tammaru, Tiit & de Vuijst, Elise & Zwiers, Merle, 2016. "Spatial Segregation and Socio-Economic Mobility in European Cities," IZA Discussion Papers 10277, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    22. Musterd, Sako & Marci?czak, Szymon & van Ham, Maarten & Tammaru, Tiit, 2015. "Socio-Economic Segregation in European Capital Cities: Increasing Separation between Poor and Rich," IZA Discussion Papers 9603, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

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