Amsterdam is ne of the most egalitarian cities in the world
Growing & shrinking cities
Urbanization in China
Most egalitarian cities
World's largest cities
City Mayors reports news from towns and cities around the world. Worldwide | Elections | North America | Latin America | Europe | Asia | Africa |
City Mayors ranks the world’s largest, best as well as richest cities and urban areas. It also ranks the cities in individual countries, and provides a list of the capital cities of some 200 sovereign countries. More
City Mayors profiles city leaders from around the world. More
City Mayors describes the history, architecture and politics of the greatest city halls in the world. More
Mayors from The Americas, Europe. Asia, Australia and Africa compete for the World Mayor Award. More
Use Mayor Monitor to rate the performance of mayors from across the world More
In your opinion: Praise Criticise. Write
City Mayors reports political events, analyses the issues and depicts the main players. More
City Mayors describes and explains the structures and workings of local government in Europe, The Americas, Asia, Australia and Africa. More
City Mayors deals with economic and investment issues affecting towns and cities. More
City Mayors describes and explains financial issues affecting local government. More
City Mayors reports urban environmental developments and examines the challenges faced by cities worldwide. More
City Mayors reports on and discusses urban development issues in developed and developing countries. More
City Mayors reports on developments in urban society and behaviour and reviews relevant research. More
City Mayors invites readers to write about the people in their cities. More
City Mayors examines city brands and marketing. More
City Mayors lists and features urban events, conferences and conventions aimed at urban decision makers and those with an interst in cities worldwide. More
City Mayors deals with urban transport issues in developed and developing countries and features the world’s greatest metro systems. More
City Mayors examines education issues and policies affecting children and adults in urban areas. More
City Mayors investigates health issues affecting urban areas with an emphasis on health in cities in developing countries. More
City Mayors reports on how business developments impact on cities and examines cooperation between cities and the private sector. More
City Mayors examines the contributions history and culture make to urban society and environment. More
City Mayors examines the importance of urban tourism to city economies. More
City Mayors questions those who govern the world’s cities and talks to men and women who contribute to urban society and environment. More
City Mayors profiles national and international organisations representing cities as well as those dealing with urban issues. More
City Mayors reports on major national and international sporting events and their impact on cities. More
City Mayors lists cities and city organisations, profiles individual mayors and provides information on hundreds of urban events. More
Western Europe has the most
19 November 2008: Major cities in the United States, such as Atlanta, New Orleans, Washington D.C., Miami, and New York, have the highest levels of inequality in the country, similar to those of Abidjan, Nairobi, Buenos Aires, and Santiago. At the other end of the world, Beijing is considered to be the most equal city in the world while, on average, the most egalitarian cities in the world are located in Western Europe.
egalitarian cities in the world
A report by UN-Habitat reviewed by Tann vom Hove
Join the debate on world cities
These are some of the findings of the new UN-Habitat report on the State of the World’s Cities 2008/9: Harmonious Cities. As Ban Ki-moon the Secretary-General of the United Nations points out in his foreword to the report, “The data and analysis contained in this report are intended to improve our understanding of how cities function and what we, as a global community, can do to increase their livability and unity.”
Aimed at policymakers and planners and all those concerned with the welfare of a rapidly urbanizing world, the report breaks new ground by taking the Gini coefficient, normally used to measure inequality at the national level, and using it to measure inequality at the city level.
Basing their research on such economic statistics, the authors find that though the cities in the United States of America have relatively lower levels of poverty than many other cities in the developed world, their levels of income inequality are quite high, and have risen above the international alert line of 0.4.
According to the report, in Canada and the United States, one of the most important factors determining levels of inequality is race. In western New York State, for instance, nearly 40 per cent of the black, Hispanic, and mixed-race households earned less than US $15,000 in 1999, compared with 15 per cent of non-Hispanic white households. The life expectancy of African Americans in the United States is about the same as that of people living in China and some states of India, despite the fact that the United States is far richer than the other two countries.
At the global level, the report finds that, on average, the most egalitarian cities in the world are located in Western Europe. In the developed world, specifically European countries, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, and Slovenia, exhibit relatively low levels of inequality (Gini coefficient below 0.25, the lowest in the world). Inequalities are also low in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxemburg, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland, where the Gini coefficients range from between 0.25 and 0.3. Low levels of inequality reflect the performance of national and regional economies in these countries and the regulatory, distributive and redistributive capacity of the national and local welfare states.
Analysing the rate of urban inequality in the developing world, the report finds that the cities of Asia are the most equal: the urban Gini coefficient of Asian cities is 0.39, slightly below the unacceptable inequality threshold of 0.4. However, there are significant income distribution differences among cities, even within the same country, which shows that national aggregates are not necessarily reflected at the local level.
For instance, Beijing, the capital of China, is the most equal city in Asia; its Gini coefficient is not only the lowest among Asian cities, but is the lowest in the world (0.22), whereas Hong Kong, the Special Administrative Region of China, has the highest Gini coefficient among all Asian cities, and a relatively high value by international standards (0.53).
The report also marshals evidence to show that India is undergoing an inequality trend somewhat similar to that of China as a result of economic liberalization and globalization. All of these changes in the occupational structure of the country are affecting levels of inequality. In 2002, for instance, the income gain of the richest 10 per cent of the population was about 4 times higher than the gain of the poorest 10 per cent.
Focusing its attention on Latin America and the Caribbean, the report finds that the Gini coefficients in urban areas and selected cities in the region are among the highest in the world. For example, in Brazil, unemployment rose from 4.3 per cent in 1990 to 12.3 per cent in 2003, and average wages of employees in the formal industrial sector fell by 4.3 per cent in 2003. Unemployment and declining wages in urban areas have polarized income distribution in urban areas. For this and other historical reasons, Brazilian cities today have the greatest disparities in income distribution in the world.
It comes as no surprise that cities in Sub-Saharan African have the highest levels of urban poverty in the world. Although rural poverty is pervasive in the region, more than 50 per cent of the urban population in the poorest countries lives below the poverty line. Though Freetown in Sierra Leone, Dire Dawa in Ethiopia and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania are among the most equal cities in sub-Saharan Africa, with Gini coefficients of 0.32, 0.39 and 0.36, respectively, the Gini coefficient in urban Kenya rose from 0.47 in the 1980s to 0.575 in the 1990s.
In South African and Namibian cities, inequalities are most pronounced and extraordinarily high, despite the dismantling of apartheid in the early 1990s. In fact, urban inequalities in these two countries are even higher than those of Latin American cities. The average Gini coefficient for South African cities is 0.73, while that of Namibian cities is 0.62, compared to the average of 0.5 urban Latin America. Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, also stands out as a city with high levels of consumption inequality, with a Gini coefficient of 0.52. Concerned about the increasing levels of urban inequality, in her introduction, Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of UNHABITAT, calls for enlightened and committed political leadership combined with effective urban planning, governance and management. She concludes by emphasizing the need to promote equity and sustainability in order to build harmonious cities.
Comment & Debate
City Mayors is inviting its readers to engage in a debate on the issues raised in the article on this page. Please post your comments below. Your comments should deal with the topics of this article and must be legal and ethical. You may also reply to and/or challenge comments of other readers. While we endeavour to publish all relevant comments, we reserve the right to edit them and to reject unsuitable contributions.
Please add your comment