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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: La pauvreté cachée au cœur des villes

by Pierre Duquesne

Poverty Hidden in the Heart of Cities

Translated Tuesday 4 February 2014, by Pilar Albisu

Poverty Hidden in the Heart of Cities

A study published January 28 carefully analyses poverty rates according to territory. It shows the persistence of significant pockets of poverty in the larger cities, as well as deep inequalities among districts.

It’s a first of its kind: sociologists Louis Maurin and Violaine Mazery have completed a study looking at poverty rates according to territory, after taxes and social security benefits. Their findings, published last Tuesday by the Centre d’observation et de mesure des politiques d’actions sociales (COMPAS), list the 100 largest cities in France according to their poverty rates. The first ten spots are claimed by the over-seas communes, with five cities reaching a poverty rate greater than 33% (read boxed text).

Suburbs in Northern Paris: Over-represented

Roubaix, in Nord, holds the saddest record for France, with 45% of the poor living in its territory. Various cities of Paris’ northern suburbs follow, over-represented in this gloomy hit list, with Aubervilliers (39%), Saint-Denis (34%), Sarcelles (32%), Épinay-sur-Seine and Pantin (30%)…

If you include the cities with a population of less than 50,000, then those such as Grigny (Essonne), Clichy-sous-Bois (Seine-Saint-Denis) or Garges-lès-Gonesse join the ranking, with poverty rates of 43%, 45% and 40%. Large concentrations of poverty are still found, alas, in suburban ghettos, and yet “the disapproving prevailing opinion is that poverty is found only in peri-urban areas,” says Louis Maurin.

“One must be careful,” adds the sociologist, “not to limit oneself to analyzing based solely on average incomes, which can be misleading.” At a first glance, a city like Paris lands 84th in the ranking of the top 100 poorest cities. “When you change perspective, it becomes apparent that some districts (arrondissements) such as the 18th, 19th, and 20th, which total a number of 200,000 inhabitants between them, boast a poverty rate of 20%, well over the national average (14%).”

This study takes the analysis even further by examining poverty not only by territory, but by neighbourhood. In Belleville, in Goutte-d’Or and in ten or so of the capital’s neighbourhoods, more than 40% of inhabitants live with less than 60% of the median national income, 977 Euros a month. “This translates into much more poverty than in some of the cities showing high poverty rates, but with a much lower population density,” explains Louis Maurin.

The same can be said for Marseille, where the 3rd arrondissement has a higher concentration of poverty (55%) than a city like Roubaix. Other neighbourhoods in the city of Marseille, such as the 1st, 2nd, 14th and 15th, also boast a rate higher than 40%. “Despite the rise in property prices, the large cities still account for a large part of the poor population, and some neighbourhoods reach levels that surpass, by far, the national average,” concludes the study. In other words, poverty hides in cities, even if it is drowned out by the masses.

Use Other Criteria Apart From Income

The inequalities found at the heart of a single city call for “reasoning with similar scales,” advises the report. It also suggests that we evaluate standards of living by taking into account social security benefits, “which is not the case for the new geography of the city’s policy.” For a more careful analysis of poverty, it would also be necessary to use, according to the authors, other criteria apart from income, such as “the social make-up of the families or the state of the social housing.”

La Réunion, a ghetto in the ocean. The largest inequalities are found overseas. “In these territories, the richest mix with the poorest,” explains the COMPAS study, especially in the island of Réunion, where you find half of the top-ten poorest and largest cities. Saint-Pierre is second on the list, with 44% of people living on less than 977 Euros. Following it are Le Tampon (43%), Saint-Paul (39%) and Saint-Denis (36%), in sixth place. The less populated, Le Port, boasts a poverty rate of 55%. An all-time record.

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