Book Review Preview: Socioeconomic Segregation in European Capital Cities

By David Varady

Tiit Tammaru, Szymon Marcińczak, Maarten van Ham, and Sako Musterd (Editors). Socio-Economic Segregation in European Capital Cities: East Meets West. (London and New York: Routledge, 2016).

Socio-Economic Segregation in European Cities: East Meets West constitutes the first major comparative analysis of socio-economic segregation in European cities and is based on quantitative and qualitative data from 13 major European cities: Amsterdam, Budapest, Vienna, Stockholm, Oslo, London, Vilnius, Tallinn, Prague, Madrid, Milan, Athens, and Riga.

Not surprisingly, the 13 case studies show that “the spatial gap between the more extreme socio-economic categories, those that ‘have’ and those that ‘have not’ is pretty much widening in Europe.” (p.365) I was surprised however, to learn that the type of welfare state and the characteristics of housing provision—were not clearly linked to the level of segregation. “In some countries with strong public involvement in the housing sector we find both low levels of segregation (Prague) and high levels of segregation (Stockholm and Vienna).” (p.375)

The book does a great job in comparing levels of segregation across European capitals and in portraying the results geographically. However, as the editors acknowledge, it falls short in explaining  how and why families make particular segregative residential choices. Why, for example, 25 years after the fall of communism in Tallinn do Estonian managers live in separate neighborhoods from Russian speaking managers?

Unfortunately, the book largely overlooks the role of religion―in particular fundamentalist Islam—along with economic marginalization, and spatial separation―in threatening the future viability of European cities. The terms “Islam” and “Muslims” do not appear in the index and I do not think that they appear in the text either. Did you wonder, as I did in the wake of the 2015 Paris attacks and the attack on the Brussels airport, why the Molenbeek municipality in Brussels became a no-go area for police, where gang violence remains rampant, where Islamic radicalism feeds on the neighborhood’s marginalization, and where some of the terrorists responsible for the Paris and Brussels attacks were able to hide (Freytas-Tamura & Schreuer, 2015)? Unfortunately, you won’t find answers to these questions in this book. Sophisticated qualitative research is needed to answer these questions.

Despite these limitations, I learned a lot about segregation in European cities. However, the book’s high price of $170 prevents me from recommending it to JUA readers.  I do encourage you to order a PDF version of the Introduction and Conclusion, available from Open-Access at www.Tandfebooks.com.

An expanded version of this review will be published in Geography Research Forum.

Reference:

Freytas-Tamura, D., & Schreuer, M. (2015). Belgian minister says government lacks control over neighborhood linked to terror plots. New York Times.  November 15, Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/live/paris-attacks-live-updates/belgium-doesnt-have-control-over-molenbeek-interior-minister-says/

 

David P. Varady is Professor of Planning at the University of Cincinnati and is Book Review Editor for the Journal of Urban Affairs. He is the author of numerous books and articles about low-income housing policy, segregation, and neighborhood development.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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