Our big cities are engines of inequality, so how do we fix that? The Conversation

Extract from an article by Somwrita Sarkar, Peter Phibbs and Roderick Simpson

Australia’s global cities are a very large part of the nation’s economic success, but they are also generating significantly unequal incomes. Our recent research found that as Australian cities have grown, their income inequality has increased.

Cities provide many social and cultural opportunities and allow large numbers of people to stay connected. But bigger is better only if we can make it better for everyone.

We propose a solution: rather than concentrate activity around a single city centre, we need to develop multiple centres of activity – polycentric cities.

How are city size and incomes related?

Large cities, particularly global cities, are great sources of wealth and income generation. Their impacts on inequality, though, are less positive.

Much recent research has focused on measuring the relationship between city size and income and wealth generation. Various studies show that as cities increase in size, income and wealth grow “superlinearly”. This means that if the city size grows by 10%, income and wealth generation grow by more than 10%.

The benefits of large cities to the economy overall are well recognised. The most significant economic engines of many countries are one or two of the largest cities – think New York for the US, London for the UK, Sydney and Melbourne for Australia.

Large cities may be where growth and wealth are concentrated. And, by inference, average quality of life is improved. But the uneven distribution of wealth among residents is of concern.

A reasonable question might be whether cities, which many regard as humankind’s greatest invention, are machines for concentrating wealth inequitably. Is there any relationship between city size and income distribution? (continues)

SOURCE: Somwrita Sarkar, Peter Phibbs and Roderick Simpson, “Our big cities are engines of inequality, so how do we fix that?”,  The Conversation, 24 feb 2017

Link to full article

BroCAP is produced by the two librarians at the Brotherhood of St Laurence in Melbourne, Australia.

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