Colombia’s Socio-Economic Stratification System : An urbanisation policy that causes intergroup conflict?

University essay from Linnéuniversitetet/Institutionen för samhällsstudier (SS)

Abstract: Rapid urbanisation is a global phenomenon on the rise. If managed poorly by the cities affected, it may lead to, e.g. segregation, air pollution and civil unrest. In order to avoid these problems and to achieve Sustainable Development Goals, 10, reduce inequality within and among countries and 11, make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, urbanisation policies must be functional, robust and socially sustainable so that the organic growth or poorly executed policies does not lead to problems like segregation, tensions between the inhabitants and civil unrest. This study takes a closer look at a one mega city’s attempt to cope with their rapid urbanisation, the Socio-Economic Stratification (SES) system of Bogotá, Colombia to see if it is a sustainable and efficient urbanisation policy. Semi-structured interviews were conducted in two areas of Bogotá where neighbourhoods are characterised by a significant difference in SES levels. Social Identity Theory and the Social Identity Model of System Attitudes were adopted to analyse the results, focusing on the formation of group identities in the neighbourhoods, intergroup conflictual behaviour, relationships and contact to see whether there exist peaceful coexistence or intergroup conflictual behaviours between the members of the SES systems different levels. The study shows a passively supported but not actively endorsed system, a tendency to place strong classification and stigmas on individuals based on their SES level, the lack of relationships and contact between neighbourhoods, and social identities with intergroup conflictual behaviour in three out of four areas investigated. A less conflictual behaviour is found in individuals that have lived in other SES levels or has had much contact with people from there. The results suggest that urbanisation policies, not only in Bogotá but worldwide, should be implemented where inhabitants are encouraged to interact and diminish segregation. As the segregation stemming from the SES system is causing tensions between the members of the different SES levels and may lead to civil unrest. This study contributes to the deficit in empirical data that exists on the SES system and will work to spark a debate on its implications and highlight people’s experiences from it. The results will also work as material for future research on the SES system and other urbanisation policies worldwide.

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