John Libbey Eurotext

Environnement, Risques & Santé


Are social mix policies effective in reducing residential segregation and health inequalities? Results from a literature review Volume 14, issue 4, Juillet-Août 2015


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1 SiTI – Istituto superiore sui sistemi territoriali per l’innovazione
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Azienda Sanitaria Locale Chieri
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“Social mixing” policies have been introduced in urban areas of most European countries, first and foremost as a strategy to combat residential segregation and decrease the spatial concentration of disadvantaged households. Internationally, housing policies aimed at increasing the social mix are intended to build social capital in order to improve health outcomes and reduce health inequalities.

This article summarises the main findings of a literature review – Housing and social mix – which looked at the potential impact of urban policies on health outcomes and inequities. Its main objective was to analyse the origins and rationale of social mix policies in Europe and to provide an overview of the various means used to promote diversity in housing structure and of the sociological theories underlying the presumed beneficial effects. The review investigated the association between social mix and social cohesion and used evidence collected from empirical studies to assess the effects of mixed neighbourhoods on social interactions and networks.

Social mix policies rely on a common set of beliefs about the benefits of mixed communities, with little evidence to support them and a growing evidence base that contradicts them. Some authors suggest that efforts to improve social equity would be more effective if aimed directly at the disadvantaged themselves rather than at modifying the housing structure. Most agree that there is not enough evidence to reach definitive conclusions. A very cautious approach to housing policies aimed at social mix should therefore be adopted.

This article presents the current debate on the desirability and usefulness of social mix as a policy goal, questioning the principles that are the basis of mixing policies and showing the extent to which its results are controversial.