“¿Cómo la sangrienta historia de España dio lugar a la mayor concentración de ascensores del mundo?”

Cuando uno piensa en España lo que primero se le viene a la cabeza es la palabra ascensor, ¿o puede que no?. Pues bien, lo cierto es que razones no faltan. Como se puede observar en el siguiente gráfico, el número de ascensores por cada mil habitantes es clara y comparativamente más alto en España que en el resto de países estudiados.

La alta propensión a vivir en pisos podría ser vista a simple vista como la causa más lógica. En 2012, aproximadamente el 65% de la población residía en pisos o apartamentos, porcentaje claramente superior al 46% de la media europea y sólo comparable a países como Letonia o Estonia.

Sin embargo, es importante tener en cuenta otros factores, como la mayor predisposición de los españoles a vivir en régimen de propiedad, tal y como se deduce del siguiente grafico. Sólo Irlanda parece aproximarse al ratio español, si bien hay que tener en cuenta que sólo un 5% de irlandeses reside en pisos.

Ahora bien, dicha predisposición no responde necesariamente a ningún tipo de tradición cultural, como se suele argumentar. Tanto es así que a la altura de mediados del decenio 1950-1960, menos de la mitad de la población vivía en régimen de propiedad. Proporción que se incrementaría hasta el 80% a lo largo de la segunda mitad del siglo XX.

¿Cómo ha sido eso posible? La respuesta se encuentra en gran medida en una serie de factores de tipo político que tienen su origen en el régimen franquista. En primer lugar, es importante subrayar los devastadores y duraderos efectos que toda guerra suele tener en el parque de viviendas y que, en ese sentido, la guerra civil española no fué una excepción. Por otro lado, antes incluso de haber comenzado las hostilidades, España había experimentado importantes flujos migratorios del campo a la ciudad. Fenómeno que se reanudaría una vez finalizada la guerra civil y que acabaría por agudizar aún más la escasez de viviendas urbanas.

Mientras tanto, el régimen de Franco, en un intento por mejorar su apoyo popular, llevó a cabo fuertes regulaciones en las políticas de alquiler a partir de la Ley de arrendamientos urbanos de 1946. Así lo describía el economista del banco central Juan Mora-Sanguinetti en 2011:

Las intervenciones fueron severas. La protección del inquilino en contra del desalojo fué entonces ilimitada. Incluso parientes cercanos del inquilino podían sucederle como nuevos inquilinos con la misma vivienda y bajo las mismas condiciones. Con relación a los costes de alquiler, la ley establecía incrementos fijos y únicos en el pago del alquiler para pisos que habían sido arrendados antes de 1939, así como la congelación de las rentas de los nuevos contratos.

La alta regulación del sector dificultaba a los propietarios la obtención de beneficios, lo que acabaría desincentivando tanto el mantenimiento de viviendas como la construcción de otras nuevas. En consecuencia, la calidad de las mismas se deterioró notablemente y la oferta de nueva construcción continuó escaseando.

En los años cincuenta, el gobierno reconoció la necesidad de cambiar de postura. “Queremos un país de propietarios, no de proletarios”, había dicho el ministro de vivienda de Franco en el año 1957.

En este contexto, el gobierno incentivó a los propietarios para que vendiesen sus propiedades a un bajo precio. Las ventas se dispararon siguiendo la ley sobre propiedad horizontal. Lo que en América se había llamado condominium. Así lo escribieron la economista Anna Cabré y Juan Antonio en 2004:

La ley creó una base legal para la inversión masiva en nuevas construcciones que serían vendidas como pisos y apartamentos individuales. Los movimientos migratorios hacia la ciudad, el crecimiento del empleo, la práctica ausencia de normas y ordenación del suelo y la desorbitada inflacción hicieron el resto. Los nuevos residentes procedentes del rural se trajeron sus ahorros y los invirtieron en “ladrillo”. Las familias de jóvenes parejas pudieron comprar baratos y pequeños pisos en las nuevas áreas residenciales. Las familias de matrimonios de edad media dejaron los centros históricos y mejoraron su nivel de vida por medio de la adquisición de nuevos y mejores pisos. Igualmente, la estabilidad laboral y salarial ayudaron a pagar las hipotecas. En cuestión de años, ser propietario de una vivienda se había convertido en el objetivo de la mayoría de los españoles.

Cabe destacar que Reino Unido también llevó a cabo un programa similar durante los años de Margareta Thatcher. El objetivo no era otro que convertir en dueños a los inquilinos de las decrépitas viviendas sociales de propiedad estatal. Pero esto, no obsante , no condujo a que la mayoría de los británicos residiesen en pisos – ver el segundo gráfico más arriba.

Por otro lado, para entender las particularidades del mercado español de la vivienda es necesario detenerse por un segundo en la política económica del régimen de Franco en términos generales. Durante las dos primeras décadas posteriores a la guerra civil Franco intentó gobernar el país como si de una entidad económica independiente se tratase, es decir, cerrado al comercio – una autarquía. En un sistema de estas características y dominado por el gobierno, el uso de la tierra agrícola era de suma importancia. Por este y otros motivos el crecimiento de las ciudades fué de alguna manera cercado por parte de los planificadores urbanos con el fin de preservar el uso agrícola de las tierras situadas en la proximidades de la ciudad. En consecuencia, “En España se ha favorecido una urbanización compacta y densa”, tal y como Módenes, profesor de geografía humana de la Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona, hizo saber a Quartz por medio de un correo electrónico.

La planificación “de arriba hacia abajo” dió lugar a un tipo de construcción urbana con una densidad relativamente alta y, a menudo, efectuada por empresas políticamente bien situadas durante el boom de la construcción que tuvo lugar desde la década de los sesenta hasta el final de los setenta.

“Las urbanizaciones y complejos residenciales con más de 1.0000 viviendas fueron el modelo dominante” escribió en 2004 el académico de Harvard Eric Belsky y su colega Nicolas Retsinas en un artículo sobre el mercado español de la vivienda. Dichas urbanizaciones vendrían a substituir muchos de los barrios de chabolas que se desarrollaron cerca de ciudades como Barcelona y Madrid a finales de 1940 y principios de 1950.

Y así es como nace la ciudad moderna española. Por lo tanto, y dado su origen autocrático, resulta difícil sostener que los españoles hayan escogido vivir en pisos o apartamentos desde un punto de vista histórico. Si bien, todo parece indicar que dicha opción sigue siendo vista como la más conveniente a día de hoy. Los españoles no gastan más que la media en vivienda – aproximadamente el 20% de su renta disponible- mientras que el 94% dice estar satisfecho con el lugar donde reside actualmente, uno de los ratios más altos en la OCDE y muy por encima del 87% de media.

De hecho, algunos argumentan que los españoles podrían estar, si es que lo están algo, demasiado cómodos permaneciendo en sus actuales casas, ya que, el alto procentaje de propietarios de vivienda tiene como contrapunto una baja mobilidad laboral. Esto, sumado a otros factores, podría estar condiconando el acceso a determinados puestos de trabajo no circunscritos al área de residencia. Y eso, en definitiva, estaría afectando aún más a la maltrecha economía española.

___

Traducido del inglés al español por Xaquín S. Pérez-Sindín López. Publicado en http://www.ssociologos.com. Fuente original: Matt Phillips, Octubre 14, 2014. Quartz.

“How Spain’s bloody history gave it the world’s highest concentration of elevators?”

(Original source: MATT PHILLIPS Oct 14, 2014. Quartz)

When you think about Spain, the first thing that pops into mind is undoubtedly one word: Elevators. No? Well, maybe it should be. Compared to other countries, Spain’s elevator supply looks remarkably, well, elevated.

At face value, there’s a pretty simple reason why. Spaniards are some of the world’s pre-eminent apartment-dwellers. In 2012, roughly 65 percent of the population lived in apartment buildings, much higher than the euro-area average of 46 percent. (The only other European countries that compare to Spain in terms of apartment-living are Latvia and Estonia, which are both also around 65 percent.)

That seems straightforward enough, except when you consider the fact that unlike many of the other big apartment-dwelling nations, the Spanish don’t rent. They own. In fact, only Ireland has as high a rate of homeownership, and yet only 5 percent of the Irish live in flats.

Spain hasn’t always been such a hotbed of homeownership. In fact, well into the 1950s, less than half the population owned their homes. That jumped to more than 80 percent over the next half century.

How? Largely through the muscular policy of Francisco Franco, the dictator who ruled Spain from the end of the civil war in 1939 until his death in 1975.  As we know, one of the many lasting side effects of wars is ugly housing shortages. The Spanish Civil War, which was an awful warm-up to World War II, was no different.

Before the hostilities began, Spain had had an influx of rural migrants into the cities. That resumed after the war, exacerbating a shortage of housing.

Meanwhile, in an effort to short up popular support, the Franco regime instituted heavy-handed regulations on the rental sector, starting with the Urban Tenancy Law of 1946. As a Spanish central-bank economist, Juan Mora-Sanguinetti, wrote in 2011 [pdf]:

The interventions were severe. The tenant’s protection against eviction was unlimited. Even close relatives of the tenant were able to succeed him as tenants in the same dwelling and benefiting from the same conditions. With respect to rents, the Law established fixed one-time increments in the rent paid for apartments leased before 1939 and freezed [sic] the rents in respect of all new contracts.

Overly restrictive regulation made it difficult for landlords to earn profits on their properties, discouraged maintenance, and deterred additional building. Housing quality deteriorated sharply and the supply of housing continued to run short.

By the 1950s, the government recognized it needed to shift its stance. “We want a country of proprietors, not proletarians,” Franco’s housing minister famously said in 1957.

Under the new policy, the government incentivized landlords to begin selling their properties to their tenants at very low prices. Sales took off, and new legislation followed [pdf, in Spanish] codifying propriedad horizontal, or joint ownership—what in America would be called a condominium. Economists Anna Cabré and Juan Antonio Módenes wrote in 2004 (pdf):

The law created a legal basis for massive investment in new buildings that would be sold by individual flats and apartments. Movement to the cities, high employment, the virtual absence of urban land use regulations and norms, and skyrocketing inflation did the rest. Rural migrants brought their savings and invested them in stone (or should we say concrete?). Young couples bought cheap and comparatively small apartments in new areas of the expanding cities. Middle-aged families left the historical centers and improved their standard of living by acquiring new and better-quality flats. And steady employment at inflated wages helped all of them pay their mortgage. In a matter of years, homeownership had become the goal of most Spaniards.

It’s worth noting that the U.K. undertook a similar program of turning over decrepit, government-owned “council housing” and transforming its tenants into owners during the Thatcher years. But that—see the second chart above again—didn’t turn Brits into a nation of flat-dwellers.

Perhaps the key to understanding Spanish housing patterns is to look beyond the Franco regime’s rules on renting to its economic policies overall. In the first two decades after the Civil War, Franco tried to run the country as a totally independent economic entity, closed to trade—an autarky. Under such a system, which was government-dominated, agricultural land usage was of paramount concern.

In part because of that, city growth period was hemmed in by planners in order to help preserve nearby agricultural land. “In Spain compact, dense urbanization has been favored,” wrote Módenes, a lecturer in human geography at the autonomous University of Barcelona, in an email to Quartz.

Top-down planning gave rise to relatively high-density urban building, often by politically connected construction companies in a building boom that stretched from the 1960s into the late 1970s.

“The dominant form of this housing was estates (apartment complexes) with over 1,000 dwellings,” wrote then Harvard academic Eric Belsky and colleague Nicolas Retsinas, in a paper on the Spanish housing market (pdf) back in 2004. “These estates replaced many of the shantytowns that developed near cities like Barcelona and Madrid in the late 1940s and early 1950s.”

Thus was the modern Spanish city born.

So, given its autocratic origins, it’s hard to argue that Spaniards choseapartment living. But it now seems to suit them fairly well. Spaniards spend no more than the average on shelter—roughly 20 percent of their disposable income—yet 94% of them say they’re satisfied with their current housing situation, one of the highest satisfaction ratings in the OECD and well above the 87 percent average.

In fact, some argue that the Spanish might, if anything, be too comfortable staying in their current homes. The flip side of Spain’s sky-high homeownership rate tends to be a relatively low rate of labor mobility [pdf], since it makes matching would-be workers to open positions more difficult. And that make it all that much tougher for the country’s battered economy to recover.

Sofja Kovalevskaja Award #ResearchFundingOpportunities

Description of Sofja Kovalevskaja Award

Submit an application if you are a successful top-rank junior researcher from abroad, onlycompleted your doctorate with distinction in the last six years, and have published work in prestigious international journals or publishing houses. The Sofja Kovalevskaja Award allows you to spend five years building up a working group and working on a high-profile, innovative research project of your own choice at a research institution of your own choice in Germany.

Scientists and scholars from all disciplines may apply directly to the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. The Humboldt Foundation plans to grant up to eight Sofja Kovalevskaja Awards. The award is valued at up to 1.65 million EUR.

The application submission deadline is September 1, 2014. The selection is scheduled for March 2015.

Alexander von Humboldt “We support people, not projects” #ResearchFundingOpportunities

We promote academic cooperation between excellent scientists and scholars from abroad and from Germany.
Our research fellowships and research awards allow you to come to Germany to work on a research project you have chosen yourself together with a host and collaborative partner.
If you are a scientist or scholar from Germany you can profit from our support and carry out a research project abroad as a guest of one of more than 26,000 Humboldt Foundation alumni worldwide – the Humboldtians.
As an intermediary organisation for German foreign cultural and educational policy we promote international cultural dialogue and academic exchange.
What is important to us
If you would like to become a member of the Humboldt Family, only one thing counts: your own excellent performance. There are no quotas, neither for individual countries, nor for particular academic disciplines. Our selection committees comprise academics from all fields of specialisation and they make independent decisions, based solely on the applicant’s academic record. We support people, not projects. After all, even in times of increasing teamwork, it is the individual’s ability and dedication that are decisive for academic success.

Become an Humboldtian
Whether you are a young postdoctoral researcher at the beginning of your academic career, an experienced, established academic, or even a world authority in your discipline – our research fellowships and research awards offer you sponsorship tailored to you and your career situation.

Become a host in Germany
Every Humboldtian needs an academic host. Become a host and encourage your young, collaborative partners from abroad to apply for a Humboldt Foundation research fellowship for a research stay at your institute, or nominate a cutting-edge researcher of your choice for a Humboldt Research Award. The fellowship includes an allowance for research costs towards financing equipment, research assistance, administrative costs and so on. It helps you and your guest researcher to create optimum conditions for fruitful cooperation.

#TopResearchInstitutions; World Economic Forum

Non-academic institution engaged in such issues as economic growth, environmental sustainability and social development, among others. See bellow their own description form the website. I stumbled it after having read this interesting article “Do cities widen the gap between rich and poor?” I’ve also seen a great among of job opportunities in the section career:

  • is an International Institution committed to improving the state of the world through public-private cooperation.
  • engages political, business, academic and other leaders of society in collaborative efforts to shape global, regional and industry agendas.  Together with other stakeholders, it works to define challenges, solutions and actions, always in the spirit of global citizenship.
  • serves and builds sustained communities through an integrated concept of high-level meetings, research networks, task forces and digital collaboration.
  • delivers unique value to its Partners, Members and Constituents through its Annual and Regional Meetings, its Centres dedicated to global, regional, and industry issues, its future-oriented communities of New Champions, its expert networks of Global Agenda Councils, its TopLink knowledge and interaction platform and the Forum Academy.
  • was established in 1971 as a not-for-profit Foundation and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. It is independent, impartial and not tied to any special interests, working in close cooperation with all major international organisations.
  • strives in all its efforts to demonstrate entrepreneurship in the global public interest while upholding the highest standards of governance. Moral and intellectual integrity is at the heart of everything it does.

Reflections on Inequality and large cities

Interesting article on megacities and inequality entitled “Do cities widen the gap between rich and poor?” By Kristian Behrens and Frédéric Robert-Nicoud in World Economic Forum 

Yet one pattern has gone largely unnoticed: inequality is especially strong in large cities. At least one-quarter of the increase in earnings inequality in the US during 1979-2007 is explained by the high growth of earnings inequality in large urban areas (Baum-Snow and Pavan 2013).

According to this research “Large cities are more unequal than the nations that host them

In it, several magnific research questions aroused:

Are big cities merely the locus where income inequality is starkest, or are they host to economic mechanisms that explain (at least partly) that inequality?

How can we then explain the size-inequality nexus? Two main explanations are posed by the authors.

One seems to attribute the variations to the different industrial structure:

First, large cities may differ systematically in their industrial structure and the functions they perform. Large cities host, for example, more business services and the higher-order functions of finance and research and development (R&D), whereas small and medium-size cities host larger shares of lower-order services and manufacturing.

Another to the better access to public transportation:

large cities attract a disproportionate fraction of households at the bottom and at the top of the income distribution (Eeckhout et al 2014). Central cities of US MSAs attract, for example, poor households because they offer better access to public transportation (Glaeser et al. 2008)…

…Actually, Harvard economist Edward Glaeser claims that the large poverty rates of central cities are a testimony of their success, not their failure: they attract poor households by catering better to their needs (Glaeser 2011)

And this is the authors’ theory on this phenomena. They attribute inequality to both greater incentives and risk of failure:

…larger cities provide incentives for the most able to self-select into activities that offer high payoffs to the successful. However, the risk of failure associated with those activities also increases because workers in larger cities compete against more and better rivals.

Disproportionate rewards for the most skilled – and failure for the less skilled – then drives income inequality.

All reasons are truly insightful. However, I’d like to remark two things. First, more attention should be paid to the origin of new-residents. Are such issues as land use conflicts, forced displacement beneath this phenomena? See bellow map.

Secondly, none of them seems to pay special attention to the symbolic and dramaturgical nature of many of the human behaviours (Erving Goffman would agree). To what extent is material success the reason to emigrate to large cities? The place we live is probably the most determinant factor of our individual identity. The prestige of living in a large cities for many rural-side newcomers could be an important factor and that, perhaps, the higher inequality (and all problems around it) is seen as the price to be paid. Furthermore, the opportunities in terms of individual emancipation may be seen as the real incentive beyond economic factors. Specifically, the fact of being seen as urban citizen from the original rural community members could be the emigration underlying reason. One may prefer live anonymously and walking free in the city than keep belonging to rural communities or Gemeinschaft in terms of Ferdinand Tönnies. This is especially important in developing countries. We shouldn’t forget that most of them are eminently rural countries getting rapidly urbanized.

In two word, (and as said in previous posts) we can’t understand such processes as rapid urbanization from an exclusive “economicist” point of view. Those processes “ involve social control”, as Piketty has recently suggested.

Department of Urban and Environmental Sociology at UFZ

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The Department of Urban and Environmental Sociology at Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ (Germany) is likely one of the most appealing and advanced research centres I’ve seen in relation to urban and environmental studies. See bellow the short description provided in their website:

The Department of Urban and Environmental Sociology at Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ builds on a rich tradition of scholarship in human ecological research in sociology and related disciplines. Here, you may explore our web of people and projects, and how they are advancing sociological inquiry in inter- and transdisciplinary contexts.

What I most like is the track record of research projects. I have affinity for many of the topics covered by them such as land use conflicts, urban development or social cohesion. One of the head of the department Dr. Sigrun Kabisch has conducted mining regions related research projects in the past as well as I do in my doctoral dissertation. Actually, I have got coincidence with she and other members in several international conferences.

I promise to track them and occasionally mention some of its projects in the category #TopResearchProjects

Why “there is no such thing as economic science”?

I have recently referred to an interview made to Piketty where he states “there is no such thing as economic science. There are social sciences”. He argues that “economic processes involve social control” and that “we should teach ‪economics‬ much more in conjunction with economic‪ ‎history‬, social history, political history, political science”

That said, the truth is that Piketty’s argument is deductible from the classic economic sociology concept embeddedness. It refers to the degree to which economic activity is constrained by non-economic institutions. The term was created by economic historian Karl Polanyi as part of his Substantivist approach. Polanyi argued that in non-market societies there are no pure economic institutions to which formal economic models can be applied. In these cases economic activities such as “provisioning” are “embedded” in non-economic kinship, religious and political institutions. In market societies, in contrast, economic activities have been rationalized, and economic action is “disembedded” from society and able to follow its own distinctive logic, captured in economic modeling. Polanyi’s ideas were widely adopted and discussed in anthropology in what has been called the “Formalist vs Substantivist” debate. Subsequently, the term “embeddedness” was further developed by economic sociologist Mark Granovetter, who argued that even in market societies, economic activity is not as disembedded from society as economic models would suggest.

“The Strength of Weak Ties” by Granovetter’s

Granovetter’s paper “The Strength of Weak Ties” is a highly influential research, with about 30,000 citations according to Google Scholar (by October 2014). In 1969 Granovetter submitted it to American Sociological Review, but it was rejected. One of the reviewers stated: “…it should not be published. I respectfully submit the following among an endless series of reasons that immediately came to mind”; the other added: “… I find that his scholarship is somewhat elementary.. [he] has confined himself to a few older and obvious items”. [4] Eventually this pioneering research was published in 1973 in American Journal of ‪Sociology‬ and became the most cited work in the Social Sciences. In marketing, information science, or politics, weak ties enable reaching populations and audiences that are not accessible via strong ties. The concepts and findings of this work were later published in the monograph Getting A Job, an adaptation of Granovetter’s doctoral dissertation at Harvard University‘s Department of Social Relations, with the title: “Changing Jobs: Channels of Mobility Information in a Suburban Population” (313 pages)

Leibniz Institute for Regional Development and Structral Development (IRS) (Germany)

Another urban and regional studies related research centre. I like the concept that entitles their own description: “Social Science-based Spatial Research”. Basically because It’s notable the absence of social sciences in many urban studies departments.

Social Science-based Spatial Research

In accordance with its statutes the IRS explores the transformation and governance of cities and regions from a social science perspective. To this end, research is organised in interdisciplinary teams with long-term research concerns.

The following cross-cutting issues guide research:

  • path development, institutional change and spatial governance

  • communication dynamics and spatial structures of interaction

  • a spatial perspective on innovation processes

  • history as a resource of urban and regional development.

I also found, browsing the website, a very interesting concept “Peripheralization” that refers to “the emergence of social and spatial disparities apt to cut off certain regions or partial spaces from positive development stimuli”.

And related to this, I came across this tweet from IRS on “”Peripheral Small Town”. Pretty much related to my PhD dissertation.

It seems to me that I need to polish my German. Many interesting place to do research there!