Chance2Sustain: Opinion Paper "Mapping as Tool to Understand Urban Inequalities"

Mapping social and economic inequalities in cities can be a strategic instrument in understanding spatialized differences between neighborhoods, and helping policymakers to set priorities and targets for intervention programmes. Maps can integrate several types and sources of information and present them in a strong visual manner. In presenting inequalities, they can combine information on sources of inequalities such as housing, infrastructure and basic services, firms providing potential employment, and environmental risks (flooding, landslides, etc.). Maps link such information to particular locations or areas of the city, such as wards, postcode areas, or other areas defined by geographic boundaries.

However, maps can also present a partial or slanted view of urban inequalities, depending on how they are constructed.  If certain key characteristics of inequalities are not included, maps may not show felt needs of local residents (e.g. areas of a neighborhood where residents feel unsafe).  If the geographic boundaries used are not disaggregated sufficiently, areas of deprivations will tend to disappear in the average situations across larger areas (scale). When maps provide only a partial picture of local situations, the priorities that policymakers and civil society organizations set, may miss serious concerns that need to be addressed. Therefore, it is imperative to know how maps are made and how their characteristics can be assessed.

By Isa Baud, Javier Martinez, Karin Pfeffer

Click here to read the full paper.