Spatial Inequalities: The Space-Set Approach. Measuring and Explaining Individual Differences of Geographical Mobility in France, Italy and Germany

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 17:30
Oral Presentation
Ettore RECCHI, Sciences Po, Paris, France
Globalization entails a rise in cross-border movements – of goods, services, information and persons. With diverse motives and modalities, the size of international travels has escalated uninterruptedly in the last decades (Deutschmann 2016). While we have data on the volume of international mobility, however, there is a lack of information on the social composition of the mobile population. Who moves around the world? Is the ‘mobility revolution’ of the last half-century opening up larger opportunities for all or is it, in fact, creating a new layer of social inequalities? In other words, are there ‘winners and losers’ of increased global mobility?

This paper introduces a concept – the ‘space-set’ – to answer such questions through survey research. A space-set is formed by all meaningful places that individuals experience over their lifecourse (Recchi 2015, 150-153). I examine two significant objective (size and range) and one subjective characteristic (emotional focus or centralization) of space-sets in three comparative surveys (France: ELIPSS panel, 2016; Italy: Doxa Mobilità survey, 2015; Germany: GESIS Panel, forthcoming) through a mixed map-and-questions instrument.

Preliminary results for France and Italy show that international mobility is stratified along class, education, age and, more surprisingly, gender lines in both countries. However, international travelling is a stronger correlate of higher education in France, presumably qualifying it as an additional instrument of social distinction. Correspondingly, a larger proportion of the French have polycentric and uprooted space-sets, which in turn may facilitate more globalized life choices.


Deutschmann, E. (2016) ‘The Spatial Structure of Transnational Human Activity’, Social Science Research, 59, 120-136.

Recchi, E. (2015) Mobile Europe: The Theory and Practice of Free Movement in the EU, Palgrave, Basingstoke.