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The changing spatial economy of cities: An exploratory analysis of Cape Town


  • Ken Sinclair-Smith
  • Ivan Turok


The spatial economy of South African cities is generally believed to be experiencing selective deconcentration, which may exacerbate social inequality because of the physical disconnection between jobs and population. This paper assesses whether the locational pattern of economic activity across Cape Town is following this trajectory, using data from the Regional Service Council levies between 2001 and 2005. One of the main findings is that the city centre and areas close to the centre have maintained their economic dominance, therefore Cape Town remains a monocentric city. Yet the pattern of recent growth is more dispersed than the prior distribution because suburban nodes have gained a disproportionate share of new activity. In addition, the pattern of recent growth is skewed towards the high-income suburbs and away from the Cape Flats where most of the city's poor live. This uneven growth trajectory may be a source of concern for economic, social and environmental reasons.

Suggested Citation

  • Ken Sinclair-Smith & Ivan Turok, 2012. "The changing spatial economy of cities: An exploratory analysis of Cape Town," Development Southern Africa, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 29(3), pages 391-417, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:deveza:v:29:y:2012:i:3:p:391-417 DOI: 10.1080/0376835X.2012.706037

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Thurlow, James, 2006. "Has trade liberalization in South Africa affected men and women differently?:," DSGD discussion papers 36, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    2. Murray Leibbrandt & Laura Poswell & Pranushka & Matthew Welch & Ingrid Woolard, 2004. "Measuring recent changes in South African inequality and poverty using 1996 and 2001 census data," SALDRU/CSSR Working Papers 084, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.
    3. Ardington, Cally & Lam, David & Leibbrandt, Murray & Welch, Matthew, 2006. "The sensitivity to key data imputations of recent estimates of income poverty and inequality in South Africa," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 23(5), pages 822-835, September.
    4. Murray Leibbrandt & James Levinsohn & Justin McCrary, 2005. "Incomes in South Africa Since the Fall of Apartheid," NBER Working Papers 11384, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Servaas Van der berg & Megan Louw & Derek Yu, 2008. "Post-Transition Poverty Trends Based On An Alternative Data Source," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 76(1), pages 58-76, March.
    6. Ranjan Ray, 2000. "Poverty and expenditure pattern of households in Pakistan and South Africa: a comparative study," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 12(2), pages 241-256.
    7. Paula Armstrong & Bongisa Lekezwa & Krige Siebrits, 2008. "Poverty in South Africa: A profile based on recent household surveys," Working Papers 04/2008, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    8. Haroon Bhorat & Carlene van der Westhuizen & Pranushka Naidoo, 2006. "Shifts in Non-Income Welfare in South Africa: 1993-2004," Working Papers 06108, University of Cape Town, Development Policy Research Unit.
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