Measuring the dynamics of the geography of opportunity (case study santiago, chile)

Brain, Isabel (1); Prieto, Joaquín (2) (2018). 'Measuring the dynamics of the geography of opportunity (case study Santiago, Chile)' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Buenos Aires, Argentina 2018.


Several pieces of research have been generated aimed at describing the geography of opportunity (GO) in metropolitan areas. However, little attention has been paid to the private and public-sector actions in the GO. Thus, this research proposes a methodology to measure the GO that not only depicts the set of opportunities individuals find in their place of residence but also encompasses the analysis of the land market and real estate investment and the local government fiscal capacity.

This paper offers an analysis of the geography of opportunity of Santiago Metropolitan Area (SMA) and its changes over time at the municipal and neighbourhood scale using a multidimensional index aimed at describing the geography of opportunity in a holistic way.

The geography of opportunities refers primarily to those structural attributes of a neighborhood or larger area that affect people’s life chances. Even though the great bulk of research around this topic has been generated in cities of the developed world, the conceptual framework that the literature on geography of opportunity offers is particularly relevant for cities with high imbalance in the distribution of opportunity, as is the case of Santiago’s metropolitan area and many other cities in Latin America.

Therefore, while building upon the existing framework on geography of opportunity, the methodology proposed in this article aims at making a contribution to the current literature on geography of opportunity both conceptualization and measurement firstly, by broadening the dimensions that generally are considered in the literature of geography of opportunities. Therefore, besides considering the set of urban attributes of the areas, we include the urban dynamism based in land appraisal changes and the institutional capacity of local governments to attend the needs of the community. And secondly, we provide evidence on the relevance of considering the municipal scale analysis to complement the neighborhood scale analysis. In more developed contexts this specific scale shows quite low relevance in explaining people’s income mobility. On the contrary, in cities form less developed countries in which the welfare system is particularly weak the analysis of municipal services and institutional supply happens to show significant differences between urban areas. Particularly, Santiago’s Metropolitan Area in Chile shows striking differences in the distribution of opportunities and resources across the city. Urban infrastructure, public and private services (health, education, commerce), public amenities, job places, crime incidence among others are radically different between municipal districts. However, since the beginning of the 2000s, the SMA has experienced significant changes in the housing supply, in the urban transport system and in the demographic and socioeconomic features of the population that are somehow showing a process of redefinition of the urban structure and the distribution of opportunities within the SMA, which makes it an interesting scenario to test whether the methodology proposed is able to capture the different dimensions that compound the geography of opportunity and its changes over time.

In order to measure the GO we have generated a multidimensional index aimed at describing the geography of opportunity at two urban scales: municipalities (34 municipalities that make up the Santiago Metropolitan Area) and neighborhoods (747 commuting zones from the Origin – Destination survey). The index enable the classification of these two urban scales based on, firstly, land prices through a Urban dynamism (UD) Index, secondly, the municipal revenues and resources to attend the needs of the population through a Municipal Fiscal Capacity (MFC) Index and thirdly based on a set of urban attributes and opportunities through a Multidimensional Geography of Opportunity (MGO) Index. The construction of these indexes is based on a set of 24 variables obtained from different data sources covering the years 2002 and 2012.

The contribution of these indexes is that they broaden the understanding of the different aspects that drive the changes in the GO by bringing to the analysis urban and institutional dynamics generally disregarded in the geography of opportunity analysis. From a policy perspective, the methodology enables comparing and monitoring the different areas in a city, in order to adjust urban and social policy interventions according to the specific characteristics and needs of each area.

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