Geographies of

The Environments and Determinants of Inequity, Violence, and Displacement

Why Geographies of Inequalities?

Rapid urbanization and rising inequalities are two distinct yet interconnected phenomena that characterize our contemporary age. These trends play a crucial role in shaping global systems, producing uneven positive (e.g. cities are the main source of wealth) and negative (e.g. energy consumption and changes in land use strongly contribute to the acceleration of climate change) effects. However, they also have an enormous influence at a micro-level, impacting the opportunities and environments in which people’s daily lives are framed. Understanding social, economic, cultural, and political interrelationships from a territorial perspective, with an emphasis on geographically granular dynamics, allows this Program to uncover important insights into the synergies between poverty, discrimination, migration, and even violence, while also considering vulnerable populations’ and subgroups’ identities and lived experiences.

“...Urbanization has become more spatially fragmented, less environmentally responsive and more socially divisive… By recognizing how the spatial and the social are inextricably linked, cities could help provide solutions, not just exacerbate problems.” (OECD, 2016)


Drawing on our extensive experience working on these issues, we employ a variety of methods to understand and address inequalities, including mixed-methods research, data modeling, and policy advice.


Product 1

‘Fragmented Cities’

Product 2

Assessments of the Impact and Implications of Crime Across Urban Subgroups

Product 3

Assessments of Living Conditions of Refugees and Host Communities

Product 4

Data for Refugees

‘Fragmented Cities’ Analyses

Leveraging Non-Traditional Data to Monitor and Map Multidimensional Poverty in the Favelas of Brazil
Racial Justice Data Project

DPA is developing a “Racial Justice Data Project” that will provide a transcontinental view of racial inequality and injustice through the collection of both qualitative and quantitative data from a wide variety of traditional and non-traditional sources (including existing datasets, reports from civil society organizations, legal documents, and social media) to present a fuller picture of the effects of racism in an accessible and actionable manner. The resulting indicators and insights will aim to advance policy, advocacy and awareness raising efforts by civil society associations and policymakers to address structural racism and inequalities in selected countries, including where such data are not collected. The project will: 1) monitor racial violence and inequalities within and across countries in Latin America and the Caribbean and Europe, 2) document demands for racial justice in those regions; 3) highlight institutional actions taken to address these issues; and 4) fill gaps in state-collected data related to racial disparities and violence.

Crime and Inequality in Mexico

In collaboration with Banorte (Mexican bank), and following DPA’s previous work on the impact of crime on consumption across gender and income groups, this assessment focused on the quantification, at a fine-grain and large scale, of the disruption and recovery dynamics induced by crime across socioeconomic groups. This project showed the progress of DPA’s findings at the zip code level analysis in Mexico City, where a significant correlation between increased crime rates and decreased consumption were found.


Data-Pop Alliance and Oxfam México formed a partnership through “DataMex”, with the goal of advancing research and the application of Big Data for sustainable development in Mexico. This agreement, signed in late 2018, has since led to a consultancy and scoping study to identify the areas in which Big Data could be employed to better understand inequalities that have not been analyzed in depth. The resulting project was “Mundos Paralelos“, which focused on areas lacking in understanding and new perspectives that could provide critical insights into the work of Oxfam Mexico.

Characterizing and Analyzing Urban Dynamics In Bogota (from the Paper Series: “Big Data to Address Global Development Challenges”)

Four research papers were developed in collaboration with and funded by the French Development Agency (AFD) between 2016 and 2019 under a joint program with Data-Pop Alliance and research partners titled “Strengthening the Evidence-Base for Leveraging Big Data to Address Global Development Challenges”. This paper, “Characterizing and Analyzing Urban Dynamics in Bogota”, utilized open data and mobile phone records to identify physical characteristics and socioeconomic conditions in the city which have an impact on the proliferation of crime. The results suggest that urban diversity and natural surveillance theories play an important role in the proliferation of crime, and this knowledge can be exploited in urban planning to prevent crime. Key research partners included Fundazione Bruno Kessler (FBK) and the MIT Media Lab.

Human Mobility and Population Density in the Maldives

This project, supported by UNFPA Maldives and the National Bureau of Statistics, aimed to use Big Data to shed light on demographic features that have a wide range of implications for development policies and programs. Specifically, our partners at Fundazione Bruno Kessler (FBK) developed a prototype  to analyze population density and movement patterns that leveraged call detail records (CDRs) and new data analytic techniques by utilizing the temporal dynamics derived from mobile data, while preserving the anonymity of mobile users.

Assessments of the Impact and Implications of Crime Across Urban Subgroups

Parallel Worlds: Big Data and Inequality in Mexico City

“Parallel Worlds” is a project developed by the Data-Pop Alliance and Oxfam México, with the purpose to analyze inequality in Mexico City, using mobility data provided by Cuebiq’s Data for Good program. The project aimed to inform and influence public policy actors in making decisions that contribute to reducing social and economic segregation based on the privilege and marginalization associated with certain spaces in the city. More specifically, DPA analyzed urban inequality in Mexico City through the mapping of movement patterns in the city, using mobile data to identify segregation patterns, in terms of where people live, work, and consume. The report analyzes three dimensions of inequality: i) in access to education, ii) the right to the city, by analyzing exclusive spaces, and iii) in access to culture. A version of this paper was published in English by Projections, the Journal of the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning.

Scoping Study for a Comparative Research on Crime Risk Factors Using Big Data

A study published by the Open Society Foundations has reported numerous “atrocity crimes” perpetrated in Mexico against the civilian population since 2006. Against this backdrop, with United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) support, DPA sought to gain better insights into organized and interpersonal crime, by undertaking a scoping study to build a comparative research study in two cities: one heavily affected by organized crime violence and another with low organized crime rates, where violence is mostly interpersonal. To this end, this scoping study aimed at building a research proposal for two cities, according to data availability (i.e. traditional and Big Data sources) and crime dynamics; suggested methodology, and potential partners.

Ciudata Segura

Increasingly, data and information are being promoted as a powerful tool to understand and prevent crime and violence. However, there are two key questions that remain largely unanswered: 1) Why is crime clustering in certain neighborhoods? 2) Why do certain individuals turn to crime and not others? Leveraging sophisticated analyzes about urban crime and violence in Latin America and the Caribbean cities, Ciudata Segura analyzed the local determinants of crime and the role of impunity and social networks in driving criminal behavior through the collection and analysis of official and non-official data sources to produce public policy recommendations and action plans. The project, funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and developed in collaboration with the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI), Fundazione Bruno Kessler (FBK), the MIT Media Lab and Citizens Crime Commission, began in 2017 and has resulted in close coordination with local governments and stakeholders, in addition to: the creation of roadmaps, data audits, and capability assessments to determine further interventions; and the production of research instrument for analysis, including a series of surveys and the creation of a visualization tool.

Assessments of Living Conditions of Refugees and Host Communities

Leveraging Behavioral and Humanitarian Data Sources to Analyze the Development Challenges Faced by Syrian Refugees and Host Communities in Lebanon

In partnership with United Nations Economic and Social Commission for West Asia (UN ESCWA) and the Qatar Computer Research Institute (QCRI), this project aimed to understand the extent to which particular sets of non-traditional data sources — or crumb — and methodologies related to Artificial Intelligence can provide insights on the living conditions of Syrian Refugees and host communities in Lebanon. In particular, indicators related to human capital, poverty and demographics were explored. Data from the Central Administration of Statistics (CAS), UN agencies, telecom operators, social network data, amongst others, were used to shed light on the living conditions and interactions of Syrian refugees and local communities in Lebanon. Grounded in the Lebanese context, the project showed how these types of approaches may help national, international and local organizations develop better policies and programmes to meet these populations’ needs, while also providing pathways for them to weigh in on access to data about them.

Data for Refugees Challenges

Data for Refugees (D4R) Challenge in Turkey

For this challenge, Türk Telkom (the country’s leading telecommunication operator) in collaboration with Boğaziçi University, TÜBİTAK (Turkey’s Scientific and Technological Research Council), the MIT Media Lab, FBK, IOM, UNHCR, UNICEF, and Data-Pop Alliance, made several anonymized datasets of mobile phone users available to international research teams in order to develop projects to analyze and improve the living conditions of Syrian refugees in Turkey, with a specific focus on safety, health, education, unemployment and integration. Two publications resulted from this project, the article “Data for Refugees: The D4R Challenge on Mobility of Syrian Refugees in Turkey”, and a chapter of the book “Guide to Mobile Data Analytics in Refugee Scenarios”.