Urban neighbourhoods and why place matters

In my post, The impact of poverty on education for youth living in low-income neighborhoods in Toronto, I explored the effects poverty has on education and critiqued the quality of education young people living in low-income neighborhoods receive. 

The key point I tried to make was that schools located in low-income neighborhoods are largely disadvantaged because they lack adequate funding required to provide the proper environment to produce successful students.

However, the neighborhood impact is not only confined to educational outcomes.

What are urban neighborhoods 

Neighbourhoods are not simple geographical locations that house individual.

Neighbourhoods are socially produced spaces comprised of complex physical, social, and psychological attributes that provide different access to physical infrastructure and social and community services to their residents. 1

Consequently, a place has a profound effect on the social, political, and economic position of its residents.

The importance of place in the construction and experience of concentrated poverty and social exclusion has become increasingly indisputable.

Urban neighborhoods can be defined as spatially concentrated pockets of poverty that have been the result of increased social inequality where segregation, social isolation, and impoverishment undermine the quality of individuals living in these neighborhoods.2

Why place matter

Spatial differences found in neighborhoods are related to various social, cultural and geographic factors that mediate the outcome of social well-being of their residents including, but not limited to, educational attainment, employment, health, life satisfaction, and safety. Poverty’s connection to school dropout rates, deviant behavior, social exclusion, and poorer physical and mental health are well documented.

Poor people living in poor neighborhoods are “doubly disadvantaged” because of the poverty that exposes them disproportionately to declining employment opportunities, low-wage jobs, poor schools, and inadequate public services, which in turn undermines their ability to overcome their socioeconomic position. 2

Furthermore, because spatial segregation and social mobility often go hand-in-hand, the segregation of the poor from other members of society limits their opportunities to advance their social capital and achieve upward social mobility, resulting in the reproduction of poverty and inequality for generations to come.


Residing in a low-income neighborhood has been linked to negative outcomes on health, education, and quality of life. Evidently, where someone lives affect their access to opportunities and resources. Urban neighborhoods are sites where general processes of segregation, social exclusion, and impoverishment play out that greatly affect individuals confined to these spaces through various structural factors. Individuals living in socially isolated low-income neighborhoods experience barriers to access services, jobs, education, and other support structures, perpetuating a poor quality of life for those living in low-income, spatially segregated neighborhoods. 



    1. Hulchanski, J. D. 2009. “Neighbourhood trends in divided cities: income inequality, social polarization & spatial segregation.” A selected bibliography.

    2. Lichter, Daniel T., Domenico Parisi and Michael C. Taquino. 2012. “The geography of exclusion: Race, segregation, and concentrated poverty.” Social Problems 59(3): 364-388.

    3. Hajnal, Zoltan L. 1995. ”The nature of concentrated urban poverty in Canada and the United States.” Canadian Journal of Sociology 20(4): 497-528.

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