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Social and physical segregation in Singapore

A recent study by the MIT Senseable City Lab has used cellphone data to map both social and physical segregation within Singapore. To start, they used residential sale prices as a proxy for socioeconomic status. They then used call and text records (presumably it was all anonymous) from 1.8 million cellphone users in Singapore (2011) to map who interacted with who. Pictured above is one of those mappings.

What they discovered was evidence of a “rich club effect.” In other words, the richer the person the less likely they were to interact with people outside of their socioeconomic band. The study calls this their communication segregation index.

A similar phenomenon was noted as people moved around Singapore. (This is the study’s physical segregation index.) People tend to spend time in spaces alongside people with similar socioeconomic attributes. However, they did notice that this tends to wane during the day as people move around the city — presumably for work and other such things.

I think it would be interesting to get a bit more granular about the findings in order to try and see, among other things, if certain public spaces are more successful than others at encouraging a broader socioeconomic mix. And it’s probably only a matter of time before we start using tools like this to plan our cities. For more on the study, click here.

Image: MIT Senseable City Lab

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