Residents of big cities, known as the ‘melting pots’ of America, have fewer interactions with people outside their socioeconomic group than those in smaller communities, according to new research.
In a piece for Stanford News, Laura Castañón outlines the results of a study that sought to measure how much people of different socioeconomic classes interact with each other in cities of various sizes. “Using cellphone data, a collaboration of researchers led by Stanford University determined that most people in big cities have very few opportunities for even brief interactions with those outside their own socioeconomic status.” This stands in contrast to rural areas, where people are more likely to interact with others outside their demographic.
Professor Jure Leskovec explains the disparity, saying, “In New York, you can spend $10 on a dinner or $1,000 on a dinner, whereas if you live in a place with only one diner, everyone goes there, rich or poor. That seems to be the main mechanism for this phenomenon.”
The study’s authors say this points to a need for policymakers and urban planners to promote interaction and diversity through conscious design choices. “Looking at large cities, the researchers found that those that placed frequently-visited hubs in between different neighborhoods – instead of in the center of each neighborhood – were less segregated.” The authors suggest that cities can use this data to understand where new quasi-public and public spaces could provide the most opportunities for social interaction and guide future development.
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