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Panel 48. Inequality, residential segregation, and social cohesion


  • Gabriel Otero (Universidad Central de Chile, Chile & Centre for Social Conflict and Cohesion Studies – COES).
  • Vicente Espinoza (Centre for Social Conflict and Cohesion Studies – COES).


This panel aims to highlight the relationship between residential segregation and social cohesion. We expect to foster debates about how spatial inequalities in cities can give rise to varying degrees of social integration and inclusion, with far-reaching consequences for individuals’ attachment to society (e.g., Otero et al., 2022). The significance of these lines of inquiry lies in its potential to contribute to the harmonious development of society, the effective functioning of democracy, and the well-being of society’s members (e.g., Berger-Schmitt, 2002; Putnam, 2000).

We aim to underscore the various pathways through which residential segregation and broader spatial inequalities can shape distinct patterns of social cohesion, while encouraging reflections from diverse contexts. We recognize that further contemplation of the similarities and differences between contexts in the Global North and Global South, as well as the historical evolution of spatial inequalities, can yield valuable insights into the role of residential segregation in social cohesion. Furthermore, we aspire to facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration, opening room for diverse varied strands of thought and methodologies for empirical research to achieve a comprehensive understanding of the relationship between residential segregation and social cohesion.

Social cohesion is regarded as a process by which whole societies or other social units, and the individuals within them, hold together through the action of specific attitudes and behaviours that emphasise consensus rather than pure coercion (e.g., Green & Janmaat, 2011). Social cohesion is often described as a multidimensional phenomenon encompassing cultural, relational, political, and normative dimensions. Within these dimensions, there exist numerous components that can be analysed jointly and separately to represent different patterns of social cohesion. These components encompass attitudes such as sense of belonging, social and institutional trust, altruistic dispositions, respect for the law, and behaviours such as civic membership, social support, and political participation (e.g., Chan et al., 2006; Kearns & Forrest, 2000; Van der Meer & Tolsma, 2014; Schiefer & Van der Noll, 2017). Therefore, we welcome contributions that span this wide spectrum of social cohesion dimensions and components.

Residential segregation stands out as one of the most prominent manifestations of spatial inequalities, which also encompass disparities in urban violence, population density, and territorial stigmatization. In general, residential segregation refers to the pronounced clustering of socio- economic groups in residential areas, expressed either as enclaves or ghettos, which operates across various scales, spanning census tracks, districts, cities, and regional levels (Massey, 1996). It generally arises from the social exclusion of impoverished communities stemming from the implementation of urban neoliberal policies and the deliberate self-isolation of more privileged groups (e.g., Marcuse, 2005). The prospects for individuals’ societal attachments and the resulting levels of social cohesion at aggregate levels are expected to be affected by residential segregation for many reasons. For example, residential segregation among the urban poor may shape the dissociation of the individual from the “collective conscience” potentially resulting in anomie, but also feelings of powerlessness, meaninglessness, and self-estrangement (e.g., Fischer, 1973). By contrast, privileged dwellers in relatively isolated communities may build up social institutions that strengthen common control over their resources as well as their social capital (e.g., Maloutas & Pantelidou Malouta, 2004; Ostrom & Ahn, 2009). As such, this panel is not only an invitation to generally examine the relationship between residential segregation and social cohesion but also an opportunity to delve into the different scales at which residential segregation operates and the diverse mechanisms through which broader spatial inequalities can give rise to various manifestations of social cohesion.

Centro de Estudios de Conflicto y Cohesión Social.

Diagonal Paraguay 257,
Torre 26, Oficina 1504
Santiago – RM

Los Navegantes 1963
Providencia – RM