Inequalities in Vulnerable Areas

In several so-called 'vulnerable' regions, livability and safety are under pressure (e.g., Rotterdam- Zuid and Heerlen-Noord). Problems regarding education, health, work, housing, habitat, environment and safety seem not only to pile up but even to reinforce each other. People who grow up in vulnerable areas often do not have the same opportunities as people who grow up elsewhere. Poverty, often passed down from generation to generation, plays a major role in this, as it affects health, study opportunities, labour market participation, housing comfort and safety. The COVID-19 outbreak has compounded these multi-layered problems and made inequality even worse. In order to overcome the accumulation of problems, we must significantly improve the living situation to reduce inequality.

Even though a lot of research has been done in recent decades to address these problems, an evidence-based integral and interdisciplinary approach (that combines collaboration, involves citizens, leverages existing strengths and learns from the past) is still missing in order to make a real difference. After all, addressing social, economic or political inequality problems not only requires insights from the cultural, psychological or law sciences, but also benefits from knowledge from the educational, management and beta sciences.

If as researchers we want to help create a real community in a neighbourhood, if we want children in a class to be able to harmoniously relate to each other, if we want a more sustainable living environment, if we want people to live a happier and healthier life, we need to research turning points and ways to effectively address them across multiple scientific domains. To understand and address inequalities in these areas, researchers should actively engage with citizens in the different stages of the research cycle and create a sustainable relationship with the community, creating so-called 'citizen science'.

Research projects