Young women in Espoo have a wider mobility range than young men

Girls in Espoo move around the city more than boys do, but why?

Girls in Espoo move around the city more than boys do, but why?

The intriguing research done by the local municipality can help with future urban planning decisions

The official website of the Finnish city of Espoo published some of the results of a geographical survey called My Espoo on the Map, which showed, among other things, that teenage girls moved around the city a lot more than their male peers.

The implications of this finding, however, can be multi-fold. It reveals a lot about how young people experience and live their city

The map-based survey carried out in the autumn of 2020 received responses from about 1,600 Espoo residents aged 12 to 15. They marked places that are meaningful to them on the map, as well as ideas for development – almost 13,000 marks were made in total. The survey was carried out in collaboration with Aalto University.

Life circles of Espoo’s youth

The way the survey worked was that the young residents were asked to mark their favourite and most frequently visited spots in the city. The resulting clusters of visited points thus formed what the researchers called “life circles”.

The life circles of young people in Espoo are rarely concentrated only around the home. In both age groups, regardless of gender, a life cycle consisting of two concentrations is the most common. It means that young people often visit places that are either close to home or concentrated elsewhere, for example around a school or a shopping centre. Within such a circle of life, two clear concentrations can be noticed, which may consist of several visited objects.

Differences between genders and age groups were also found. In both age groups, a multicentered life circle (consisting of more than two centres), was identified more often in girls than in boys. In the same way, unicentric life cycle was rarer in girls than in boys in both age groups. This observation also supports the fact that girls move more and farther from home than boys.

Likewise, girls' life circles were wider than boys. The difference between boys and girls was about four square kilometres for younger people and almost eight square kilometres for those born in 2005. It is worth noting that the life circles of the girls in the younger age group were wider than not only their age but also older boys. 

Places that are important for girls' everyday life are therefore more often located further away from home than for boys. Do girls want to travel further, or are the places of interest more often located at a longer distance?

The implications

Asking such questions from a gender perspective can have implications for the urban design of the future. In fact, that was the purpose of the initiation of the survey.

When examining the circles, it becomes clear that young people still want and are allowed to move widely in Espoo. On the other hand, a large part of the destinations visited by young people are located within walking distance from home, so Espoo's urban structure seems to also allow for a smaller life circle. But then, why do young girls in particular spend time in a wider area?

Explanations can be found from many directions, for example, gendered hobby opportunities and ways of spending free time. It can indicate an interest in an independent way of moving or the lack of certain types of environments in the young people's residential areas. At least the girls' wider life circles show that in Espoo they are not restricted any more than the boys are, something that is not a given internationally.

Girls' movement is more often restricted if the living environment is perceived as unsafe. From this, it can be concluded that Espoo is a safe place for young people to spend time, not only for the young people themselves but also for the parents.



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