This blog post reports on my summer research trip to China as a Student Fellow of the India-China Institute at The New School. I came to this trip determined to find out how is it that what I usually research in México City -namely, who has access to economic opportunities and prosperity within the city, who does not, and why- plays out in Chinese cities, which have a completely different institutional setting, a different kind of economy, and a very different role of the state over social life. After spending two weeks in Shanghai, I have come to the conclusion that despite both cities -Mexico City and Shanghai- produce high rates of intra-urban inequality, they are doing so through different mechanisms and the outcomes are not that similar.
In the case of Mexico City, intra-urban inequality is likely to be produced through social intra-urban inequality to class and race, and the outcomes resemble what Charles Tilly (1998) has named durable inequality. In the case of Shanghai, intra-urban inequality is likely to be produced through the outcomes related to citizenship status, but the outcomes are not as durable as those theorized by Tilly. The outcomes in the case of Shanghai look more like what I will call here floating inequality, which means that populations experience intra-urban inequality for limited periods of time and for a specific purpose.