The centralization of opportunities in Brazilian cities, mapped

. Jan 20, 2020
cities Passengers are seen by bus at Salvador's Lapa Station. Photo: Joa Souza Passengers wait for their bus at Salvador's Lapa Station. Photo: Joa Souza

Jobs are poorly distributed in Brazil’s state capital cities, as shown by a recent study from the Institute of Applied Economic Research (Ipea). Researchers found similar patterns among 20 of the country’s biggest cities, with what they called “deserts of opportunities” on the outskirts of these urban centers.

“The concentration of jobs in central urban areas, along with the connectivity of transportation networks results in high-accessibility areas close to the center of cities. Those central areas are in stark contrast with peripheral regions, characterized as deserts of opportunity, with low levels of development and poorly served by urban infrastructure and public transportation,” wrote study authors Rafael H. M. Pereira, Carlos Kauê Vieira Braga, Bernardo Serra, and Vanessa Gapriotti Nadalin.

</p> <p>“The results suggest that white and high-income populations have on average more access to work, healthcare and education opportunities than black and poor populations in all the cities studied, regardless of their means of commuting.”&nbsp;</p> <h2>Hours lost in traffic</h2> <p>In São Paulo, most jobs are found in the expanded city center, even lower-paid employment such as telemarketing firms. As a result, the working-class population—which overwhelmingly lives on the outskirts of the city—commutes en masse to the center every day, causing persistent traffic jams and cramped subway cars. The São Paulo underground&#8217;s Line 3 links the populous and less-wealthy East Zone to the city center, transporting about 1.5 million passengers every day. At morning rush hour, Line 3 trains carry 7.1 commuters per square meter.&nbsp;</p> <p>The following maps show the concentration of job opportunities with commutes of one hour of less in four major state capitals: São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Porto Alegre, and Belo Horizonte.</p> <p>Commuting time is a crucial factor, as delays in the morning trip to work have traditionally lead many workers—especially from the outskirts—to buy a car in order to have a more comfortable commute, even if it doesn&#8217;t necessarily reduce the time they spend going from home to the office. The huge number of vehicles on Brazil&#8217;s roads, often with no passengers, have increased traffic jams and spread congestion throughout the day. São Paulo has famously developed a &#8220;<a href="">third rush hour</a>,&#8221; with noon becoming another particularly difficult time to negotiate one&#8217;s way throughout the city&#8217;s roads.</p> <p>For the purpose of comparison, the following maps show the same four cities and the concentration of job opportunities with a commute of 15 minutes or less.</p> <figure class="wp-block-image"><img src="" alt="" class="wp-image-30464" srcset=" 950w, 300w, 768w, 610w" sizes="(max-width: 950px) 100vw, 950px" /></figure> <figure class="wp-block-image"><img src="" alt="RIO OPPORTUNITY INEQUALITY" class="wp-image-30463" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w, 610w, 335w, 1093w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /></figure> <figure class="wp-block-image"><img src="" alt="POA" class="wp-image-30473" srcset=" 933w, 300w, 768w, 610w, 265w" sizes="(max-width: 933px) 100vw, 933px" /></figure> <figure class="wp-block-image"><img src="" alt="BH" class="wp-image-30472" srcset=" 990w, 300w, 768w, 610w, 203w" sizes="(max-width: 990px) 100vw, 990px" /></figure> <h2>Schools: quantity good, quality bad&nbsp;</h2> <p>For an image that is closer to the ideal, we can take a look at the distribution of elementary education, in terms of walking distance. Accessible schools are found all over the city, as are hospitals and health clinics.</p> <p>While these maps do not account for the quality of these schools—a distribution of quality education would look similar to that of employment opportunities—the simple fact that educational facilities are better spread among the population is seen by the authors as positive, the result of public policy.</p> <p>The authors of the study say that while the situation is not good, it is also not unchangeable.</p> <p>“We hope this project may open paths to future studies that may deepen our understanding of the mechanisms determining unequal access to opportunities in Brazilian cities, and that this data may help improve planning and policy evaluation to contribute to building more sustainable and inclusive cities,” said the researchers.</p> <p>For existing and prospective businesses, the project&#8217;s <a href="">interactive map</a> is a useful guide for planning future locations. The aforementioned &#8220;deserts of opportunity&#8221; tend to have much more favorable prices for buying or renting property, and workers who spend less time commuting are statistically shown to be happier and more productive, as they are able to have more leisure time.

Marcelo Soares

Marcelo Soares is a Brazilian journalist specializing in data journalism and reader engagement.

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