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Residents of comfortable cities inclined to be sedentary

Russia’s urban residents can be split into four groups, depending on their relationship with the city, what they expect from it, values, and lifestyle. Three groups prefer to lead a settled or sedentary lifestyle, as they are either content with their place of residence, or passive. The fourth category is mobile, and always ready to move. By taking each group’s values into account, cities can be made more comfortable for all residents, research by a study group at the HSE’s Graduate School of Urban Studies and Planning says

Research into the different types of urban resident was carried out for the IV Moscow Urban Forum. The research was carried out by staff at the HSE’s Graduate School of Urban Studies and Planning: Ekaterina DybaEgor Kotov , Anton Gorodnichev and Arina Miksyuk, headed by project leader Aleksandr Vysokovsky, as part of broader research ‘Fighting for urban citizens: human potential and the urban environment’ which surveyed residents in six cities: Ekaterinburg, Novosibirsk, Voronezh, Tomsk, Krasnodar and Tyumen. 5,400 people took part in the survey.

The four groups of urban resident were identified through this research – based on what they expect from their urban environment, their interest in different aspects of urban development, and degree of mobility (for more detail, see the article ‘A full life can be lived outside capital’).

Those who value aesthetics and urban infrastructure

The first group, almost a third of the total number of respondents (32.2%), are urban citizens in all senses. These are people who have an established relationship with the urban environment, focused on community life. These residents value the city’s aesthetics and value the wide range of socio-economic and cultural opportunities open to them. They include the highest proportion of people with higher educations (65.3%). Most respondents in this group earn over 50,000 rubles per month each.

This group is interested in benefits such as education, work, hobbies and amenities. They care about the city having good higher education institutions, numerous magazines within walking distance, and major shopping centers. Their favorite places are related to their lone hobbies or those they enjoy with friends: museums, theaters, exhibitions, cafes, stadiums. They move through the city actively, although they are drawn to its central regions. This kind of city-dweller is concerned by the city’s appearance, including courtyards and green areas but are not particularly active regarding their place of residence. They are not interested in taking part in local government.

City-dwellers who value home, local comforts

The second type of urban resident (an average of 22.2% in the survey) is more concerned with issues relating to quality of life and the environment around their buildings than those in the first group, and are also interested in housing management and cost. They are active on greening and improving courtyards, and are often involved in voluntary clean-up initiatives, and organize ‘spring-cleaning’ in their own blocs, the research indicates.

This group is dominated by people from the urban periphery, who go to work in the center of the city or other areas. Therefore, these people particularly value the quality of public transport. If the first group was relatively young, the second comprises middle-aged people. They have an income of about 15,000-25,000 rubles per family member.

Homebodies

The third group does not have clear preferences regarding its surroundings, or a preferred strategy for urban behavior. These people, the research shows, are rather passive. This is the largest single group: 42% of the total number of respondents. Its members value work opportunities, high salaries, and good kindergartens, schools, and clinics. Their other demands relate to urban infrastructure quality (leisure, transport, etc.) and are minimal. Most often, these people work close to home. They are not part of social movements, be they for local government or courtyard improvements. Members of this group earn low incomes, the researchers say, most have an income of below 25,000 rubles per person.

These people are implementing a crisis-strategy. It is no accident that their areas are limited to their flats and places of work. ‘Their average preferences can be formed through increased trust in the people and institutions around them and with improved quality of urban infrastructure,’ the researchers say.

City consumers

The fourth group – the least numerous at 3.8% of the total selected – is very different from the other three. These people are super-active, take the initiative, and are ambitious. This group mainly comprises businesspeople, students and those who combine work and study. They value good environmental standards, high-quality transport and infrastructure. However, they have a broadly consumerist relationship with the city, the research indicates.

They rarely participate in local government, but do place a high value on social capital. A quarter of this type of city-dweller is involved in social movements, and 71.5% have participated in voluntary work or charity work over the past year. Almost 40% are content with their place of work.

Since this group mostly comprises businessmen and working students, its members have a positive view of business: 42% believe that it is easy to do business in their city. ‘One can assume that the values of this monolithic group, focused on individualism and personal achievement,’ the research shows. ‘They are not rooted in the city, the city is just the place that they are able to realize their ambitions.’ These people are able to move to a different city, if they get a better job offer there.

City for all citizens

Taking these groups of city-dwellers into account, it is possible to improve the quality of the urban environment across four factors, the research authors say. The first involves developing civil society institutions. City residents need to be drawn into the urban environment. This is particularly important for residents of the third group: they could define themselves in the city.

The second course of action would be to improve the cultural infrastructure. This would please those in the first group. Then, third, develop transport infrastructure and raise the quality of available housing to meet demand among the second group.

And, finally, supporting members of the fourth group involves another course of action: expanding opportunities for business and socially significant projects.

 

Author: Olga Sobolevskaya, December 23, 2014