There is a newer version of the record available.

Published November 9, 2022 | Version v1
Journal article Open

Conceptualising urban inequalities as a complex socio-technical phenomenon

  • 1. TU Delft


The United Nations World Social Report (2020) documents deep divides within and across countries globally revealing that more than two thirds of the world’s population live in countries where urban inequality has increased in the last three decades. Although there is growing recognition of the multi-dimensional effects of urban inequalities, international organisations and governments continue to characterise them as an economic issue, relying on popular, unidimensional indices such as the Gini Index. Through the critical examination of contemporary socio-spatial research centred on urban inequalities, this article advocates an alternative conceptualisation proposing that they are, in fact, a complex socio-technical phenomenon, that arises through multiple spatial and temporal scales out of dynamic interactions between society and critical infrastructure. This critical analysis reveals three predominant lines of research centred on the geo-spatial analysis of urban inequalities from accessibility, distribution and policy and stakeholder perspectives. To engage with the deeper theoretical contributions of these perspectives, a conceptual model of the urban is delineated through a critical reflection on a series of key relational themes and existing debates. A central finding is that socio-spatial perspectives are intrinsic for grasping the deeper systemic and institutional drivers that reproduce urban inequalities.


Conceptualising urban inequalities as a complex socio-technical phenomenon.pdf