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Cities near Barcelona grow poorer as wealthy move to smaller towns, study finds

Mataró, Terrassa, Granollers, and Sabadell lose higher-income residents to neighboring towns

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10 June 2021 08:00 AM

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ACN | Barcelona

Some of the largest cities in the Barcelona metro area have been losing high-income residents to smaller towns for years, resulting in an ever-increasing wealth gap between neighboring municipalities, a study has concluded.

While the average income per person still varies greatly when comparing different ZIP codes within the same municipality, wealth segregation is becoming more apparent when comparing entire municipalities.

"Some towns attract increasingly richer people, while others have increasingly poorer people," said Ismael Blanco, the director of the Institute of Government and Public Policy (IGOP) at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), in an interview with the Catalan News Agency.

  • "Some towns attract increasingly richer people, while others have increasingly poorer people"

    Ismael Blanco · IGOP director

The poster child of Blanco’s latest report on the issue is the town of Mataró, the capital of Maresme, a seaside county north of Barcelona.

With a population of 129,661 inhabitants, Mataró has an average income of 11,657.8 euros, which puts it at the bottom of the county with 15% less than the average.

According to Blanco, Mataró lost higher-income residents to smaller nearby towns like Argentona (12,536 inhabitants and an average income of 14,438.4 euros) or Cabrera de Mar (4,747 people, 18,283.6 euros).

Other cities experiencing the same trend are Sabadell (€13,046.3), surpassed by Castellar del Vallès (€14,201.7) and Sant Quirze del Vallès (€18,163.2); Granollers (€13,407.3), surpassed by La Garriga (€14,682.1); or Terrassa (€12,640.9), falling behind one of Spain’s richest villages, Matadepera (€24,738.1).

More challenges, fewer resources

Over the past 20 years, Mataró has increased its population by 20%, welcoming 20,504 new residents. Half of them came from developing countries outside the OECD and moved to neighborhoods in the periphery of the town.  

While towns like Mataró are dealing with a higher "social complexity," they have less money to address them, as explained by mayor David Bote in an interview with the Catalan News Agency. "We need more resources to combat inequalities," he said.

Blanco also defends the need to take "social characteristics" into consideration when distributing public resources among different municipalities, instead of assessing the funding only based on the total population.

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  • The Merinals neighborhood in Sabadell (by Albert Segura Lorrio)

  • The Merinals neighborhood in Sabadell (by Albert Segura Lorrio)

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