Characterizing the spatial consequences of social processes

EPID 594
Spatial Epidemiology
University of Michigan School of Public Health

Jon Zelner
[email protected]

Today’s Theme


  • Brief projects check-in (~10m)

  • Segregation measures hands-on (~25m)

  • Reflection in pairs on the week’s readings (~15m)

  • Segregation and infectious disease transmission hands-on (~25m)

  • Wrap-up

Infectious Fear

Why is the book called Infectious Fear?

This book is primarily concerned with two overlapping and mutually informative periods in U.S. urban history: the era of infectious fear all but vanquished by the discovery of antimicrobial therapies, and a period, before the Second World War, when health policy and social policy were, comparatively speaking, overwhelmingly dominated by politics derived from local rather than federal mandates. (Roberts 2009, 20)

How has this statement aged into the COVID era?

No naive nostalgia for the germ is presumed in imagining, for example, that many of the health problems of post-war inner cities, many of which are not infectious but are nonetheless tied to geography, might have appeared more urgent—as public health problems as opposed to simply social or moral problems—had there still existed a disease that plainly…illustrated the geographical links among class, geography, and health. (Roberts 2009, 40)

Important: Problem of segregation is not unique to the U.S. or to entirely racialized distinctions

Residential segregation of Muslims and Hindus in Delhi, India (from (Susewind 2017))

Measuring Segregation

  • Infectious Fear provides an imporant qualitative sense of relationships between social and economic oppression and the spatial patterning of infectious disease outcomes.

  • Why might we want to use quantitative measures of segregation?

  • If we are working within a multi-level modeling framework, at what level would you place your segregation model?

What are the dimensions of residential segregation?

Some canonical definitions from (Massey and Denton 1988):

“Minority members may be distributed so that they are overrepresented in some areas and underrepresented in others, varying on the characteristic of evenness.”
“[Minority group members] may be distributed so that their exposure to majority members is limited by virtue of rarely sharing a neighborhood with them.”
“They may be spatially concentrated within a very small area, occupying less physical space than majority members.”

“They may be spatially centralized, congregating around the urban core, and occupying a more central location than the majority.”


“[A]reas of minority settlement may be tightly clustered to form one large contiguous enclave, or be scattered widely around the urban area.”

Do any of these describe the patterns of segregation described in Infectious Fear?

Comparing Segregation and Clustering Metrics

What time is it? It’s hands-on time!

Connecting residential segregation to spatial inequity in disease outcomes

  • What did you find most striking or interesting in the chapters from Infectious Fear?

  • How did reading these chapters change how you think about residential segregation as a social and spatial process?

  • How did these chapters impact your thinking about the way residential segregation shapes infectious disease transmission?

  • To what extent are the lessons here relevant in the present?

Connecting quantiative measures of segregation to transmission risk

Connecting the dots between spatial exploitation and inequity

Next Time

  • What’s next?

  • Finishing projects.


Massey, Douglas S., and Nancy A. Denton. 1988. “The Dimensions of Residential Segregation.” Social Forces 67 (2): 281–315.
Roberts, Samuel K. 2009. Infectious Fear: Politics, Disease, and the Health Effects of Segregation. University of North Carolina Press.
Susewind, Raphael. 2017. “Muslims in Indian Cities: Degrees of Segregation and the Elusive Ghetto.” Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space 49 (6): 1286–1307.