Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences

New software for calculating segregation in different parts of the world

10 December 2012

John Östh at the Department of Social and Economic Geography has developed a new piece of software that can calculate segregation with higher accuracy. Now he is leading a new international project which will investigate how segregated different places around the world are, and how they have developed over time.

Until now, researchers who want to measure segregation have only had blunt instruments at their disposal. The results have often been based on the situation in a municipality, a city or an area, and to a large extent have been dependent on how the measurement was done and therefore have not been particularly precise. Now John Östh, senior lecturer of human geography at Uppsala University, has developed a new computer program, Equipop, which instead uses every individual in an area as a starting point.

By studying a person’s closest neighbours and scaling up the number of people around each individual it is possible to determine the small-scale selection of people she surrounds herself with; in the building, in the block, in the local shop or in the school class.

‘It is not only my closest surroundings that determine what segregation around me looks like’, says John Östh.

Within the framework of a five year international research project, John Östh together with researchers at the Department of Human Geography in Stockholm and researchers in the US and Northern Ireland will use Equipop to produce comparable statistics on segregation in different parts of the world.

‘This will make it easier to understand what the mechanisms behind segregation can look like and to conduct comparative research’, says John Östh.

Closest in line is a comparison between different groups of the population in Los Angeles with different groups of the population in Sweden. The researchers will also investigate the segregation between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland.

‘This method is completely new. The idea has existed before, but it has not been doable due to the enormous amount of statistical data’, says John Östh.

When the project is over the researchers will have access to accurate information about  the level of segregation in different parts of the world, as well as where it increases and decreases the most.

‘There are many theories on the driving forces behind segregation. By producing robust data showing what segregation actually looks like, we will hopefully see which theories hold water’, says John Östh.

Annette U Wallqvist