SO480      Half Unit
Urban Inequalities

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Fran Tonkiss STC.S205


This course is available on the MSc in City Design and Social Science, MSc in Inequalities and Social Science, MSc in Regional And Urban Planning Studies, MSc in Urban Policy (LSE and Sciences Po) and MSc in Urbanisation and Development. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

This course offers a critical introduction to key issues and processes in the study of contemporary urban inequalities. Recent urban analysis has highlighted the growing share of the global population that now lives in cities; this course puts such growth in the context of another major urban trend: deepening patterns of inequality in many cities across the world. It examines the continuing role of ‘older’ bases of urban inequality - access to land and property, gender inequity, ethnic and racial discrimination, legal exclusion and informality – as well as significant emerging patterns, including extreme concentrations of wealth at the top, middle-class stagnation, privatisation and spatial secession, immigration and insecurity. It also examines the complex of ways in which urban inequality is experienced, not only in terms of income or property, but also in consumption inequalities, inequities in access to housing, transport, urban services and legal protections, spatial disparities and environmental risks and injustices. The course considers the range of social, economic, environmental and political factors that shape, and also might help to address, urban inequality in these different contexts.

The course will:

• provide a critical introduction to current and emerging patterns of urban inequality

• consider the production of urban inequalities through social, economic, political and spatial processes

• explore common themes and critical differences across cities in developed and developing economies

• address key debates in a range of urban disciplines, and situate these in specific urban contexts and examples

Key themes

• Urban growth and the growth of inequality

• Wealth, income and inequality

• Spatial injustice: segregation and access

• Environment and inequities

• Informality and insecurity

• Social inequality in the city: gender, race and legal exclusions

• Governing inequality


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the MT.

Reading Weeks: Students on this course will have a reading week in MT Week 6, in line with departmental policy.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay in the MT.

1 x 2000-word essay

Indicative reading

• Beall, J. and Fox, S. (2009) Cities and Development. London: Routledge.

• Brenner, N., Marcuse, P. and Mayer, M. (eds) 2012) Cities for People, Not for Profit: critical urban theory and the right to the city. London: Routledge.

• Davis, M. (2006) Planet of Slums. London: Verso.

• Goldsmith, W.J. and Blakeley, E. J. (2010) Separate Societies: Poverty and Inequality in U.S. Cities.  Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2010.

• Graham, S. and Marvin, S. (2001) Splintering Urbanism: networked infrastructures, technological mobilities and the urban condition London: Routledge.

• Nightingale, G. (2012) Segregation: A Global History of Divided Cities. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

• Roy, A. and AlSayyad, N. (eds) (2004) Urban Informality: transnational perspectives from the Middle East, Latin America, and South Asia. Lanham, MD.: Lexington Books.

• Soja, E. W. (2010) Seeking Spatial Justice. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

• Tannerfeldt, G. and Ljung. P. (2006) More Urban Less Poor: An Introduction to Urban Development and Management. London: Earthscan

• Wacquant, L. (2007) Urban Outcasts: a comparative sociology of advanced marginality. Cambridge: Polity.


Essay (100%, 5000 words) in the LT.

An electronic copy of the assessed essay, to be uploaded to Moodle, no later than 4.00pm on the first Wednesday of Lent Term. 

Attendance at all classes and submission of all set coursework is required.

Key facts

Department: Sociology

Total students 2018/19: 35

Average class size 2018/19: 17

Controlled access 2018/19: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication