Research: Increasing segregation in European cities due to income inequality

The widening gap between the rich and poor is leading to segregation in more and more European cities and it decreases the social stability and competitive power of the cities. These conclusions are based on the first rigorous comparative study on segregation in European cities which was published in the book “Socio-economic segregation in European capital cities. East meets West”, under the direction of Tiit Tammaru, Professor of Urban and Population Geography at the University of Tartu.


This study compares the situation in 2001 to that in 2011 for thirteen European cities and concludes that social mixing common to European cities is decreasing.

The conclusions are based on a comparative analysis about Madrid, Milan, Tallinn, London, Stockholm, Vienna, Athens, Amsterdam, Budapest, Riga, Vilnius, Prague and Oslo (ranked from the highest to lowest level of segregation).

Although social stratification is increasing, the process varies in European cities. “The link between social inequalities and segregation is not straightforward since it is mediated by many other factors such as the level of globalization in a city, the intensity and nature of immigration, and the local urban spatial and housing policies,” explained professor at the University of Tartu Department of Geography Tiit Tammaru.

Although the study focuses on income segregation, ethnicity sometimes clearly plays a role. This is also the case in Tallinn, where segregation increased the most among the studied cities. Kadri Leetmaa, Research Fellow in Human Geography at the University of Tartu, points that “One of the reasons for the increased socio-economic segregation in Tallinn is the growing overlap between social and ethnic inequalities”.

“The combination of high social inequalities, disadvantages of the minority population and a lack of resources for urban policy seem to be an especially disastrous mix of factors leading towards high levels of segregation,” adds co–author of the chapter Anneli Kährik, UT Research Fellow in Human Geography.

The book concludes that socio-economic segregation reduces the competitive power of cities. Wealthier residents tend to leave predominantly low-income neighbourhoods. This accelerates the process of segregation, making cities more susceptible to social unrest and less attractive as areas for locating a business. Such developments can lead to explosive situations as we have witnessed in recent years in several European cities, such as Paris and Stockholm. This is why the Netherlands have declared urban policy as one of the priorities for their coming European Union presidency.

The study was published by the renowned publishing agency Routledge as part of their series Regions and Cities. Additional information about the book is available on their website.

In addition to Tiit Tammaru, editors of the book include his colleagues Szymon Marcińczak from Poland and Maarten van Ham and Sako Musterd from the Netherlands.

The research received funding from the Estonian Research Council, the Estonian Science Foundation and the European Research Council.

Additional information: Tiit Tammaru, Professor of Urban and Population Geography at the University of Tartu, e-mail:

%d bloggers like this: