A1: Universal Benchmarking - Socio-spatial analysis of Canadian Suburbanisms

Judy Patla, Sara Macdonald, Roger Keil, Ute Lehrer, Markus Moos, Elvin Wyly, and Alan Walks

Team Lead:

Markus Moos (University of Waterloo)

Team Members:

Elvin Wyly (University of British Columbia)
Pablo Mendez (University of British Columbia)
Pierre Filion (University of Waterloo)
Richard Harris (McMaster University)
Ute Lehrer (York University)
Alan Walks (University of Toronto)
Liam McGuire (University of British Columbia)
Anna Kramer (University of Waterloo)
Robert Walter-Joseph (University of Waterloo)

Research Context, Methods and Goals:

The spatial analysis, or benchmarking, component is one of the initial phases of the project on global suburbanisms. The purpose of the socio-spatial analysis is to provide an empirical account of Canadian suburbanisms. The project includes quantitative and conceptual research on processes shaping the changing built form, land uses and demography of Canadian suburbs at multiple scales. To this end, we adopt a combination of urban political economy and ecology, and social and cultural geography. The project has three main components:

1. An examination and characterization of trajectories of change in the suburbanization of all regions of Canada.

2. A spatial analysis of the correlation of structural inequalities, spatial mismatch, privatization and power structures among other key facets that characterize suburbanism.

3. An attempt to disentangle the distinct processes that shape suburbanization at the intra-urban scale, including demographic change, growth, migration, institutions and market processes.

Much of the quantitative work will be carried out using custom and publicly available data from Statistics Canada surveys such as the census and other comprehensive databases on infrastructure and land use.

Current Activities:

In collaboration with the project development team members, we have developed six conceptual dimensions of suburbanism based on the notion of "suburbanism as a way of life", and identified the most appropriate scales to conduct quantitative analysis based on these dimensions. We have already operationalized measurement of four of these dimensions based on data from the 2006 Census, and have begun to search data from alternative sources to operationalize the other two dimensions and complement our measures of the other four.

In addition, four articles are currently in preparation. The first one is a quantitative analysis that seeks to compare and contrast popular constructions of suburbanism against the empirical nature of the phenomenon today in Canada's 26 largest metropolitan areas. A second paper develops a factorial analysis of present-day suburbanisms in the Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver metropolitan areas. A third paper examines the relationship between different types of inequality and the pace of new residential construction in new suburbs in the Toronto and Vancouver metropolitan areas. A fourth paper by Alan Walks, "Suburbanism as a way of life, slight return" was published in 2012.

Our team has also identified a series of census variables to be employed in a spatio-temporal analysis of suburban change in Canada's largest 26 metropolitan areas during the period of 1981 to 2006. We are currently finalizing negotiations with Statistics Canada to acquire these data in the appropriate geocoded format, and expect to secure them and begin the analysis in the fall of 2011.

The Universal Benchmarking team also launched a new website on May 30, 2012, titled  Atlas of Suburbanisms and it is now included as a reference in select Canadian university libraries. The website presents detailed data on 19 Canadian cities and provides analysis on the changing physical and socioeconomic character of these cities.


Conference and Workshop Presentations

Publications and Other Dissemination