By 2050, 86.7% of high income countries’ population will live in an urban area. It is thus critical to figure out the conditions making cities socially integrated places and cohesive communities which can open the way towards economic security and stability. In particular, the organization of the urban space (housing, transportation, public parks…) may shape the nature of social encounters and hence influence the social and economic sphere.
The aim of this project is to understand what determines the capacity of individuals to live together, a necessary condition for the existence of sustainable societies. The project thus explores the links between social cohesion (which can be defined as the capacity of a community to live together), local economic conditions (notably employment), and the environment in which social and economic interactions take place: not only the 'physical' urban environment (public facilities and infrastructure, composition of the housing stock, local public goods and services), but also the institutional environment. The work carried out is structured around two main axes: <br /> <br />1. What is the role of amenities and infrastructure on local economic conditions and social interactions? While certain types of infrastructure, such as public spaces or transportation, can promote social interaction, this does not systematically translate into more social cohesion: research in other social sciences suggests that if these interactions between distinct groups remain superficial, they may reinforce rather than hinder cleavages. <br /> <br />2. What are the links between social cohesion, the economic and institutional context, and local economic conditions? And what are the factors (facilities, infrastructure, institutions) that influence this relationship? Socially cohesive communities, characterised by higher levels of trust and cooperation and stronger shared norms, are more likely to develop or maintain effective local institutions, which leads to better economic outcomes. Conversely, economic conditions (e.g. inequality or unemployment) can influence social cohesion.
In this project, we aim at establishing causal links between the elements studied: the effect of urban renewal on delinquency, the effect of local unemployment on crime, the effect of institutions on criminal behaviour and attachment to the labour market, the effect of social norms of trust on the functioning of land markets...
One of the main difficulties encountered is to succeed in estimating causal relationships that are not biased by various problems inherent to the contexts studied.For example, in the case of work on urban renewal, the difficulty comes from the fact that the neighbourhoods concerned by this type of policy have characteristics that can have an influence on the results studied (in this case, delinquency): they are run-down housing areas with high unemployment and poverty rates. If we do not take this into account, we risk underestimating the effect of an urban renewal policy, due to the particularly adverse initial economic and social conditions in these areas. Ideally, we would require to observe what would have happened to delinquency in the neighbourhoods targeted by urban renewal policy if they had not been renovated, which is of course not possible.
Various methods developed by econometricians can help to circumvent this type of problem. Going back to the example of urban renewal, we can consider that certain neighbourhoods, which are also very disadvantaged but have not been renovated, constitute a satisfactory comparison group (or 'control' group), under certain hypotheses. Considering that the evolution of delinquency in the renovated neighbourhoods would have been the same as in the neighbourhoods of the control group, if the renovation policy had not taken place, we can then deduce the role of the renovation on delinquency in the areas treated by the policy.
By 2050, 86.7 percent of high income countries’ population will live in an urban area (United Nations estimates). It is thus critical to figure out the conditions making cities socially integrated places and cohesive communities which can open the way towards economic security and stability. In particular, the organization of the urban space (location and quality of buildings, transportation infrastructures, public parks…) may shape the nature of social encounters and hence influence the social and economic sphere. The purpose of this project is precisely to investigate whether and how urban infrastructure and amenities can foster social cohesion and lead to economically and socially sustainable cities, in the French context. In order to study this unexplored relationship, the project will rely on very rich and local data, thus getting new insights on the underlying mechanisms.
Understanding what determines individuals’ willingness and ability to live close to each other is crucial to figure out the conditions for sustainable human settlements. Indeed, unappealing locations are likely to be characterized by high residential turnover and strong negative social sorting, impeding the creation and enforcement of social norms and leading to adverse economic conditions and socially fragmented communities. On the other hand, some amenities reflecting high quality of life may overcome the dispersion forces related to congestion and make cities more attractive. Cities offering such amenities could instead be characterized by high residential stability, providing ground for more integrated human settlement and more cohesive societies through the creation and enforcement of common social norms.
The first objective of the project will seek to understand whether and how urban amenities and infrastructure affect social cohesion. To this aim, we will engage in several tasks based on very rich and local data for France. We will first use the French National Urban Renewal Program (PNRU) to measure the effect of various types of amenities on social cohesion. Since 2004, the French government has invested more than 47 billion euros into 571 deprived neighborhoods in order to reduce social segregation and improve the living environment. This has financed demolition and reconstruction or renovation of existing housing stock, as well as improvement of public spaces or creation of green spaces. This policy offers a very neat setting to study the causal impact of various types of urban infrastructure and amenities on social cohesion. We will evaluate the impact of such amenities on various indicators of social cohesion such as crime and insecurity, participation to elections, participation to local associations, or residential mobility. We will then explore the effect of transportation infrastructure on similar outcomes considering both mass transit networks and local infrastructure such as public bikes, and relying on instrumental variable estimations.
The second goal will aim at understanding the dual relationship between social cohesion and economic conditions. We will first explore whether increasing social cohesion translates into better economic outcomes, and especially lower unemployment. Using labor force survey data, we propose to measure the extent to which the level of social cohesion in a neighborhood influences the propensity to find a job in the same plant as one’s neighbor. We will then eventually investigate the reverse relationship, namely the influence of economic conditions on social cohesion. Keeping in mind the scope of this proposal, we will more precisely ask whether urban amenities and infrastructure can mitigate the effect of economic shocks on social cohesion indicators. In all tasks, particular attention will be directed to identifying unbiased causal effects.
Madame Camille HEMET (ECOLE D´ ECONOMIE DE PARIS)
The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.
EEP ECOLE D´ ECONOMIE DE PARIS
Help of the ANR 165,063 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: October 2018 - 36 Months