AIPRIL Roundtable: Urbanisation and Inequality: Historical and Global Perspectives


Tim Soens, University of Antwerp


George Mavrotas, University of Antwerp

Bruno Blondé, University of Antwerp


Tom De Herdt, University of Antwerp

Stijn Oosterlynck, University of Antwerp

Christoph Bernhardt (Leibniz IRS Erkner)

AIPRIL – the Antwerp Interdisciplinary Platform for Research into inequality – investigates the drivers of (in)equality both today and in the past. Urbanisation is often singled out as one of these drivers: the larger the city and the more urbanized a region, the higher the degrees of inequality. Or, at least so it seems, because of the concentration of both appalling poverty and incredible wealth in the mega-cities of today. But how exactly are urbanization and inequality connected? Is urbanization associated with growing inequality, because they both are propelled by demographic and/or economic growth? And is the causality mostly established at the bottom end of the distribution, because cities allow for higher levels of proletarianization and poverty, or at the top, because of a higher potential for capital and income accumulation? 

This roundtable confronts the results of two recent publications which each investigate the link between urbanization and inequality from a different perspective, historical and global. Both perspectives allow to increase the range of urban experiences of inequality significantly, and as such might give us new insights in key variables as urban size, and the configuration of urban networks (centralized versus decentralized), economic growth as driver of inequality, the different dimensions of inequality (beyond income and wealth) and the role of institutions and politics in shaping inequalities both within cities, and between cities and their hinterlands.

George Mavrotas: Urbanization in the Global South. Perspectives and Challenges

Urbanisation in the Global South, edited by Kala S Sridhar and  George Mavrotas (Routledge 2022) examines the challenges of urbanization in the global south and the linkages between urbanization, economic development and urban poverty from the perspectives of cities in Asia, Africa and Latin America. It focuses on various aspects of urbanization ranging from food security and public services like sanitation, water and electricity to the finances of cities and externalities associated with the urbanization process. The volume also highlights the importance of participatory urban governance for cities in India with comparative perspectives from other countries. It further focuses on the urbanization of poverty, livelihood in urban areas, overconsumption and nutrition and ecology. Based on primary data, the chapters in the volume review trends, opportunities, challenges, governance and strategies of several countries at different levels of urbanization.

Bruno Blondé: Inequality and the City in the Low Countries (1200-2020)

Inequality and the City in the Low Countries (1200-2020), edited by Bruno Blondé, Sam Geens, Hilde Greefs, Tim Soens and Wouter Ryckbosch (Brepols 2020) investigates whether the historic poly-nuclear and decentralised urban system of the Low Countries contributed to specific outcomes in social inequality. In doing so, the authors look beyond the most commonly used perspective of economic inequality. They instead expand our knowledge by exploring social inequality from a multidimensional perspective. This book includes essays and case-studies on cultural inequalities, the relationship between social and consumption inequality, the politics of (in)equality, the impact of shocks and crises, as well as the complex social relationships across the urban network and between town and countryside.