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Segregation research a burning issue

2010-09-17

In Europe work migration is regarded today as an important and necessary way to deal with low birth rates and an aging population. At the same time a debate is under way that points to problems and difficulties associated with failed integration, and xenophobic parties are gaining ground in several countries. High quality segregation research is therefore needed.

Segregation research at Uppsala University is pursued in an interdisciplinary setting at the Institute for Housing and Urban Research (IBF), where political scientists, social and economic geographers, economists, sociologists, and cultural anthropologists work together with their different perspectives to tackle the issue of segregation academically.

What does housing segregation lead to, and how can it be mitigated? How do children from different areas view each other? Do immigrants benefit from moving to another area? Does living in a poor area make you poorer?

“Segregation issues are complex to research. They also involve class structure and economic conditions, and it’s not possible to move people around to see what happens. But we have the world’s best databases to address these issues with, so our research attracts a great deal of international attention,” says Roger Andersson, professor of social and economic geography and director of research.

The databases make it possible to follow the entire population over long time periods: how people grow up, move and pursue a career, how people feel, and what they earn. It is also interesting to look at cities of varying sizes and at political efforts to end housing segregation. Housing planning is one of the few tools available to society for counteracting segregation.

Roger Anderssons has seen a lot of change in his 15 years as a researcher. This has to do the political importance of the issue, but also how the population in general views housing and segregation.

“People make more strategic choices now. The force behind the segregation process these days is households themselves. And values are difficult address with planning measures,” he says.

Their dialog with the surrounding world is dynamic, and they are often commissioned to perform analyses or planning studies for municipalities. These researchers are also often invited to lecture in various contexts.

“It’s exciting and important. We want to be relevant to society,” says Roger Andersson.

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