Multiscale spatial contexts and neighbourhood effects


  • Ana Petrović TU Delft, Architecture and the Built Environment



This thesis has developed alternative methods of operationalising neighbourhoods at multiple spatial scales and used them to advance our understanding of spatial inequalities and neighbourhood effects. The underlying problem that motivated this thesis is that many empirical studies use predefined administrative units, and this does not often align with the underlying theory or geography. Despite the extensive literature on neighbourhood effects and, more generally, on sociospatial inequalities, spatial scale remains an under-analysed concept. As a response to this research gap, this thesis takes a multiscale approach to both theory and empirical analysis of neighbourhood effects, highlighting the multitude of spatial processes that may affect individual outcomes of people. To operationalise this, we created bespoke areas (centred around each location) at a range of one hundred scales representing people’s residential contexts, primarily in the Netherlands but also in multiple European capitals. Using microgeographic data and a large number of scales combined with small distance increments revealed subtle changes in sociodemographic characteristics across space. In doing so, we provided new insights into ethnic segregation, potential exposures to poverty, and neighbourhood effects on income, all in light of the fundamental issue of spatial scale: The analyses of sociospatial inequalities are substantially affected by the scale used to operationalise spatial context, and this varies within and between cities and urban regions. The aim of this thesis was therefore not to find a single, ‘true’ scale of neighbourhood, but to acknowledge, operationalise, and better understand the multiplicity of spatial scales.

Author Biography

Ana Petrović, TU Delft, Architecture and the Built Environment

Ana Petrović was born in 1984 in Jagodina, and finished high school in Kragujevac, Serbia. She received a graduate diploma (master’s degree equivalent) in Geography and Tourism Studies from the University of Niš, master’s degree in Demography from the University of Belgrade, Serbia, and master’s degree in Human Geography – Urban and Regional Research from the University of Bayreuth, Germany (with a scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service – DAAD). Towards the end of her master’s studies in Bayreuth, she worked as intern, and later as research assistant, at the Research Data Centre (FDZ) of the Federal Employment Agency (BA) at the Institute for Employment Research (IAB) in Nuremberg, where she started working with the geocoded longitudinal individual-level data. In December 2014, she joined the DEPRIVEDHOODS project at TU Delft, where she continued working with the same type of geocoded data for the Netherlands. Her role within the project was to explore and analyse alternative definitions of spatial contexts for studying neighbourhood effects, which resulted in this thesis.

In addition to the DEPRIVEDHOODS project, Ana participated in two pilot projects, namely the Data for Integration (D4I) – Data Challenge of the European Commission, and the ODISSEI Secure Supercomputer (OSSC) pilot, organised by ODISSEI (Open Data Infrastructure for Social Science and Economic Innovations), Statistics Netherlands (CBS) and SURFsara. She presented her research at multiple international conferences and gave a few invited talks – at the University of St. Andrews (UK), University of Bielefeld (Germany), Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission in Brussels (Belgium), European University Institute in Florence (Italy), as well as a few presentations of the OSSC pilot in the Netherlands. During her PhD research, she spent one month at the Spatial Econometrics Advanced Institute (SEAI) in Rome (Italy), two weeks at the University of Bristol (UK), two weeks at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock (Germany), attending the Spatial Demography course, one month in the Essex Summer School in Social Science Data Analysis in Colchester (UK), and followed a few other courses in the Netherlands and Germany. So far, she has published two journal articles in the Annals of the American Association of Geographers and Progress in Human Geography and continued to work with her PhD supervisors as a postdoc researcher in the Urbanism department at TU Delft.


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