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Changing occupational structures and residential segregation in New York, London and Tokyo


Based on data from the 1980s, Sassen’s influential book ‘The Global City’ interrogated how changes in the occupational structure affect socio-economic residential segregation in global cities. Here, using data for New York City, London and Tokyo, we reframe and answer this question for recent decades. Our analysis shows an increase in the share of high-income occupations, accompanied by a fall in low-income occupations in all three cities, providing strong evidence for a consistent trend of professionalization of the workforce. Segregation was highest in New York and lowest in Tokyo. In New York and London, individuals in high-income occupations are concentrating in the city centre, while low-income occupations are pushed to urban peripheries. Professionalization of the workforce is accompanied by reduced levels of segregation by income, and two ongoing megatrends in urban change: gentrification of inner-city neighbourhoods and suburbanization of poverty, with larger changes in the social geography than in levels of segregation.

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Fig. 1: Changes of occupational structure.
Fig. 2: The distribution of the high-income occupational group.
Fig. 3: The distribution of the low-income occupational group.

Data availability

The main data used in our study are national census data for the United States, Japan and the United Kingdom. The data for each country are publicly available and owned by the respective governments (the US Census Bureau for New York; the Office for National Statistics for London; and the Statistics Bureau, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications for Tokyo). All data can be obtained from the original source. Detailed information for each city is listed below. Tokyo: we used national census data for Tokyo for 1980, 1990, 2000 and 2010. The 1980 and 1990 data are available from Statistical Information Institute for Consulting and Analysis ( for a fee. The 2000 and 2010 data are available through the e-Stat website of Statistics Bureau of Japan ( London: we used national census data for London for 1981, 1991, 2001 and 2011. The data for the first three of these years are available from the Casweb website (UK Data Service) of the Economic and Social Research Council ( Data for 2011 are available through the Nomis website by the Office of National Statistics ( or from New York: we used national census data for New York for 1980, 1990, 2000 and 2010. The 1980 and 1990 data are available through Social Explorer ( The 2000 and 2010 data are available on the American FactFinder website of the US Census Bureau ( In addition to the census data, we have used nationally representative survey data which include information on income levels for occupations for each of the three countries and for multiple periods. These data are publicly available. For New York City, we used data at the national level from the Current Population Survey 1983 and 1989, which are derived from Mellor49, and Ilg and Haugen50, respectively. In addition, we used the Occupational Employment Statistics to obtain mean hourly wage by occupation for New York State for the 2000–2010 period. For 1983, ref. 49; 1989, ref. 50; 2000 and 2010, For London we used data from the NES and ASHE. The nationwide NES occupational tables cited from Routh51 provide average annual pay as of 1979 by occupation. The NES (1990) and the ASHE (2000–2010) provide median gross weekly pay for full-time employees. For 1979, ref. 51; 1990, 2000 and 2010, Finally, for Tokyo, we used the Employment Status Survey (1982, 1992, 2002 and 2012) which was obtained by requesting tailor-made aggregations from the Statistic Bureau.


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The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Program (FP/2007-2013), European Research Council Grant Agreement no. 615159 (European Research Council Consolidator Grant DEPRIVEDHOODS, Socio-spatial inequality, deprived neighbourhoods, and neighbourhood effects), from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science KAKENHI Grant Number JP17K13584, from the Estonian Research Council (PUT PRG306, Infotechnological Mobility Laboratory, RITA-Ränne), and from TU Delft (visiting professorship of T.T.). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript.

Author information




M.v.H., M.U., T.T., D.M. and H.J. contributed equally to the conception of the work, the interpretation of the data and the drafting of the work. M.v.H. and T.T. designed the study and wrote its conceptual and discussion sections. M.U. was responsible for handing the data, executing the analysis and making the figures. M.v.H., as the corresponding author, was responsible for the revisions of the manuscript with the help of all other authors.

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Correspondence to Maarten van Ham.

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Peer review information Primary Handling Editors: Aisha Bradshaw; Mary Elizabeth Sutherland.

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Supplementary Information

Supplementary Methods, Supplementary Discussion, Supplementary Figs. 1–3, Supplementary Tables 1 and 2 and Supplementary References.

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van Ham, M., Uesugi, M., Tammaru, T. et al. Changing occupational structures and residential segregation in New York, London and Tokyo. Nat Hum Behav 4, 1124–1134 (2020).

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