Socio-spatial disparities in Belgium. Looking for pockets of poverty and wealth using egocentric neighbourhoods

Rafael Costa, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Helga A. G. de Valk, Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI) and Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Socio-spatial disparities are a persistent reality in Europe, and increasingly a matter of public policy concern for their attested negative impact on social cohesion. Belgium scores high in socio-spatial disparities in the European context. At the scale of the country, an important concentration of deprived populations in old industrial areas contrasts with the well-off suburbs around the biggest cities. Spatial inequalities are especially high in Brussels. In the past decades, the European capital has attracted both working migrants from non-Western countries and high-profile expats involved in the international institutions (UE, NATO), a situation that reinforces segregation. Whereas previous studies have relied on predefined administrative units to assess socio-spatial disparities, these units often blur spatial inequalities occurring at finer levels and conceal the real pockets of poverty and wealth. The purpose of this paper is to identify the pockets of poverty and wealth in Belgium and in Brussels with a high level of spatial precision, independently of administrative units. To this end, we rely on a nearest-neighbour approach to construct egocentric neighbourhoods and calculate several socioeconomic indicators with an unparalleled level of spatial detail. Clustering methods are applied to these indicators in order to identify the patterns of spatial concentration of both deprived and well-off populations in Belgium. We then focus on the socio-spatial disparities in Brussels and on the structural and political conditions in the most segregated areas of the capital.

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Presented in Session 32: Urban population dynamics