The Null Device

The wealth and poverty of urban areas

An article looks at the question of why the poorer parts of cities in the northern hemisphere tend to be in the east:
The reason for this is that in much of the northern hemisphere, the prevailing winds are westerlies – blowing from west to east. The massive, unchecked pollution from these early industries would therefore drift eastward, making the air quality much lower in the east end of cities, lowering the desirability (and price) of the housing. Middle classes preferred the cleaner west ends.
In many cities, this will have been compounded – or confused – by the direction of the main river in the environment, which would have been relied on for many uses, including sewerage. London, as an example, displays a massive east/west divide, caused in large part by both early industry and the west-to-east flow of the River Thames.
Of course, as polluting industries are moved out of affluent countries to eastern Europe, China and the developing world, the old industrial areas, positioned close to the centres of cities as they were before widespread car ownership, are being cleaned up and gentrified, and the rich/poor divide is turning into a boring-rich/exciting-rich divide.

In Australia (well, at least in Melbourne and Sydney), the relationship is reversed, with the western suburbs being poorer and more industrial, and the eastern suburbs being more affluent. One would imagine that this would suggest that the prevailing winds in Australia are easterlies, but the wind map linked seems to contradict this; if anything, Melbourne seems in the path of westerlies, and northeasterlies don't start until somewhere around the Tropic of Capricorn.

There are 2 comments on "The wealth and poverty of urban areas":

Posted by: Greg Fri Jan 7 11:39:29 2011

In Melbourne and Sydney, is it as simple as being near the sea? That would send the rich to the eastern suburbs of Sydney and the inner southern suburbs of Melbourne, which is fairly close to what happened.

I Am Not A Historian or a Geographer.

The 'history of Melbourne' Wikipedia article says that factories, when they appeared in the 19th century, were installed in the west. I'm guessing this is because most of the early residential suburbs had already appeared in the east. Melbourne certainly has prevailing westerlies - would that push the wealthy as far east as they could go? Perhaps that explains Hawthorn and co being to the east of Collingwood and co.

For a while at least, the divide was the Yarra - poor suburbs on the north/west bank, rich suburbs on the south/east. It's a bit all over the place these days of course.

Posted by: Greg Sat Jan 8 01:01:00 2011

Actually Melbourne has as much *southerly* as westerly wind (and not much northerly and almost no easterly).

Does that strengthen the case for the "south of the Yarra" wealthy suburbs being upwind of the factories?