Poverty and Connectivity

Ann Carpenter, John Peponis


The spatial structure of cities influences patterns of development and the spatial distribution of income groups. Past studies have shown that historically the integration of streets is a strong predictor of wealth and poverty in London. Although the current societal and regulatory characteristics of Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A. differ considerably from those that have historically prevailed in London, recent research has shown that street network integration and connectedness correlate significantly with measures of wealth and poverty in different manners at different scales.

The spatial concentration of poverty and the segregation of income classes are associated with specific problems in the U.S. as elsewhere: negative externalities include poor access to employment, lack of social networking opportunities, vulnerability, psychosocial effects, political disenfranchisement, and the inadequate provision of services, shops, and amenities. This paper seeks to understand how urban form, specifically measures of street connectivity, relate to poverty in Atlanta. Initial results indicate that at the scale of larger spatial units, or U.S. Census block groups, connectivity increases as the number of households living in poverty increases. This trend expresses the tendency whereby middle and upper income groups have fled to the suburbs and peripheral urban centres since the 1960s. However, using household-level and other finer-scale data, the results invert. Within a local area, connectivity is associated with an increase in household income. The segregation of income groups by neighbourhood is responsible for the larger-scale trend, while the recent popularity of neo-traditional and mixed-income housing as part of a return to a more urban life style for the middle classes may contribute to the smaller-scale trend.


poverty, spatial analysis, space syntax, connectivity

Full Text: JOSS_2010_p108-120.pdf