Publication: Social segregation in Athens’ metropolitan area in the pre-crisis period
This paper seeks to explore social segregation trends in Athens metropolitan area in the very first years of the economic crisis, and discuss the socio-spatial patterns of the metropolitan population, based on the 2011 statistical census data. The spatial aspect of social structures introduces a different dimension on social segregation trends, reflecting segregative outcomes of different socio-economic processes around the world. Varied and nuanced forms of social segregation present in various cities around the world, altering the way of measuring and evaluating the character of the progress. Nevertheless, a potential rise in social segregation depends upon certain mechanisms that allocate residential areas to different social groups (Maloutas, 2007). Hence, the contemporary economic crisis changes in turn the social impact of economic restructuring, and social segregation comes to terms with new realities. Up until the early 2000s Athens hadn’t undergone intense processes of socio-spatial division. Residential segregation in Athens remained relatively low by international standards before the outbreak of the economic crisis. During that period, the metropolitan area of Athens constituted a paradox paradigm of social segregation and social polarization, partially due to the spatial structure of the housing market and to the respective policy framework. Undoubtedly, eight years on since the outbreak of the crisis, the urban space of Athens has been exposed to the socially dividing effects of globalization, experiencing rising social inequalities, demographic changes, marginalization of lower income strata, reduction of social mobility, high unemployment rates, etc (Maloutas, 2007). Exploring the factors that contribute to the development of social segregation patterns in Athens and elsewhere, one should certainly identify social polarization. According to some authors (Sassen, 1991), social polarization is the key factor for the generation of such phenomena. However, various approaches of social segregation claim that the impact of globalization on cities is more complex and diverse than social polarization alone. Hence, it has been underlined that both the formation of socio-spatial structures and the distribution of social groups along residential areas constitute dynamic processes whose roots are identified not only at the economic restructuring process but also at several other factors of regulatory, social, and cultural origin (Préteceille, 1995; Hamnett, 1994; Maloutas, 2014; Marcuse and van Kempen,2002). Particularly in the case of Athens, the institutional and regulatory framework is considered to be the primary agent to define socio-spatial patterns. In this context, it is useful to draw attention to the particularity and the complexity of socio-spatial trends in the Greek capital city, and to approach social segregation as a dynamic and multifactorial phenomenon.
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