There is mounting evidence from around the world that people’s local neighbourhoods exert a powerful influence on their well-being and life chances. The purpose of this short report is to present some of the main findings from a large household survey of almost 1,000 residents undertaken across different neighbourhoods in Cape Town during 2021-22. This report offers an overall assessment of the information emerging from the survey, rather than a definitive analysis of all the very detailed data. The survey was part of a four-year-long study of neighbourhood patterns and dynamics in seven countries and 14 cities around the world. The survey used a mixture of in-person and telephone methods and was based on very careful sampling of neighbourhoods and households to ensure representative results.

Authors: Ivan Turok, Justin Visagie and Andreas Scheba


Cape Town is a deeply polarised and segregated city, with graphic contrasts in living standards and subjective well-being between disparate neighbourhoods. People inhabit distinctive worlds that expose them to quite different opportunities and hazards affecting their health, education, economic prospects and general satisfaction with life. Public services moderate some of these inequalities, but their reach and quality are also very uneven across the city. Some communities are deprived of basic water and sanitation services, while many affluent residents opt out of public services through private education, healthcare and security. The Covid pandemic amplified pre-existing divisions and made life much harder for poor communities by retrenching their jobs and swelling their debt burdens. Higher-income groups were better equipped to cope with social distancing measures, economic shutdowns and remote working. The priorities of affluent communities are local peace and tranquility, rather than altruism and solidarity towards poorer neighbourhoods. Individualistic attitudes run counter to opening up local opportunities for outsiders and engaging in collaborative activities to help improve conditions in other communities. The growing spatial divides in Cape Town raise uncomfortable questions about whether this trajectory can be sustained into the future without disruptive social consequences.