Three essays on segregation and women’s right to the city in Santiago de Chile

The city is a social construct which reflects and reinforces the power structures behind its construction. Henri Lefebvre’s Right to the City is premised on the city, in the absence of intentional action for change in the urban process, reflecting pre-existing power structures and developing an urban space of asymmetrical rights between the powerful and the powerless. My project explores the role of residential segregation in reinforcing gender and class norms in Santiago de Chile. Focusing on low-income women, I examine the linkages between segregation and the following spatial layers of the gender/class division of labor – the household, the neighborhood, and the city –  and its effects on women’s capabilities to access the urban public space.

The first essay, titled “Segregation and the provision of public care goods”, examines how segregation reinforces the contradiction between gender norms that allocate female labor to unpaid domestic chores and their access to the urban public space. Residential segregation in Santiago has been strongly reinforced by the neoliberal project that originated in the mid-70’s, thus resulting in the development of distinct neighborhoods for the rich and the poor. The emergence of well-endowed municipalities in high-income neighborhoods and under-resourced local governments in low-income jurisdictions is the logical outcome when local governments depend on the taxable assets of their residents. Hence, when municipalities face budget constraints, services such as childcare and healthcare are not unaffected. Existing gender norms dictate that in the absence of care services, female members of the household provide the necessary care labor, thus increasing the unpaid domestic labor supply under conditions of residential segregation. To test this hypothesis, I propose a mixed-methods approach, where quantitative analysis measures the effects of living in a segregated community on the domestic burden of low-income women, and qualitative analysis elucidates if the anticipated mechanisms are relevant.

The second essay, “Segregation and neighborhood constraints to women’s social mobility”, explores women’s access to employment networks depending on the socioeconomic conditions of their neighborhood. Segregated communities are the loci of criminal activity and poor accessibility to public transport. I explore if these conditions affect female residents’ access to employment through social networks.

Lastly, “Segregation and women’s spatial mismatch” challenges the spatial mismatch hypothesis–which argues that unemployment in segregated communities is due to locational disadvantages–through a gendered lens. The hypothesis assumes that employers are indifferent to the kind of worker they employ. However, feminist literature illuminates the gendered aspect of labor markets, where employers are biased about what qualifies as “men’s work” and “women’s work”. Hence, I propose a gendered variant of the spatial mismatch hypothesis. Firstly, I explore the effects of locational constraints on low-income women’s access to labor markets hiring female employees. Next, I narrow the pool of labor opportunities to jobs which improve social mobility prospects of low-income women. I, therefore, propose a theoretical model before testing it empirically for the case of Santiago de Chile.

FASE DEL PROYECTO: PRELIMINAR, SUJETO A CAMBIOS. SE AGRADECEN COMENTARIOS.

Manuel Garcia

Estudiante doctoral de economía en la Universidad de Massachusetts Amherst interesado en economía política urbana, economía feminista y trabajo interdisciplinar.

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