New Approaches to Sociospatial Network Analysis: Understanding and Responding to Neighbourhood-Level Poverty and Disadvantage

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 7:30 PM
Room: Booth 67
Oral Presentation
Deborah WARR , University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
While socio-economic-spatial divisions within cities and towns have long been evident, in post-Fordist cities they are generally considered to be growing sharper and differentiating at the scale of suburbs and neighbourhoods. This produces effects in which the poor and non-poor increasingly live apart from each other and is referred to as ‘sociospatial polarisation’. These socio-economic-spatial processes have significant implications for the ways in which poverty and socioeconomic disadvantage is being reproduced through converging socio-economic and spatialised processes. Drawing on a series of studies conducted in Victoria, Australia, and exploring social network structures and experiences of community in disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged neighbourhoods, this paper explores the implications of converging socio-economic and spatialised processes with particular focus on settings of place-based neighbourhood disadvantage. Issues addressed are: 1) discussion of findings from network analyses that show contrasting patterning of social networks between residents of poor and non-poor neighbourhoods; 2) consideration of the implications of divergent network patterning for experiences and potential of community in place-based settings for poverty reduction strategies. Network analyses use a range of methods to collect network data on residents’ networks including contact diaries, CATI surveys and ethnography and, more recently, mobile phone and Global Positioning System [GPS] technology. Evidence from these and other studies suggests that residents of socioeconomically disadvantaged neighbourhoods are likely to have more local networks and fewer extra-local networks, than residents living in other kinds of neighbourhoods. These findings have significant implications for poverty reduction strategies that assume neighbourhood ‘community’ to be potentially transformative mechanisms for driving socioeconomic change at local levels.  Rather, efforts should focus on understanding macro processes that are contributing to socio-spatial disconnections among vulnerable populations and developing poverty alleviation strategies that include efforts to connect residents into extra-local and socioeconomically diverse networks.