Pretty much a year ago, I blogged about residential segregation of Lucknow's Muslims. There were three prominent explanations for why Muslims tend not to live in newer parts of the city, and if so, then more segregated: a) they do not want to because they prefer old-city conviviality, b) they cannot afford to because they are poor, and c) they are not allowed to, i.e. discriminated against in the housing market. All three explanations have important implications for my overall interest in Muslim belonging. But which is the most likely?

As one comment back then pointed out, data on real estate would be key to sort this out. I now have that data, and will attempt to solve the riddle in two posts. Today, I will give an overview of Lucknow's real estate market, while taking a closer look at the local state's involvement next week. This is all quite experimental still, and I would be very interested in your comments (if you are interested in a more extensive analysis, please drop me a line)!

The basis for my analysis is data from Lucknow's Property Index Register, which records all registered property sales since 2006, more than 250.000 transactions. As a first step, have a look at the following map (larger version), which shows the average sales prices per square meter over this period:

Clearly, the most expensive parts of Lucknow are those across the river towards the East - Indira Nagar, Gomti Nagar - as well as Hazratganj and Mall Avenue. These are precisely the areas where few Muslims live. But the map also shows that the old city (delimited by the thick black line) is not cheap either; while average property prices in the trans-Gomti area reach 8748 Rs/sqm, they stand at 6564 Rs/sqm in the old city, which is still more than in the rest of Lucknow, including the newest developments in the South (6222 Rs/sqm). This is at least a tentative hint that Muslim poverty (which is hard to measure in the first place, more on this, perhaps, in a few weeks time) is an insufficient explanation for residential pattern: with the exception of the abovementioned hot spots across the river, houses in new Lucknow are not necessarily more expensive than those in the old city, where most Muslims tend to live.

What about discrimination then, the second prominent explanation? Using the namematching algorithm that I developed, I classified each seller and buyer as Muslim or non-Muslim. I then ran a regression of standardized house prices1 on the religion of buyer and seller and part of town, controlling for approximate size of property2 and date of registration. Without going into statistical details (if you are interested in those, email me), the regression shows that Muslim sellers achieve higher prices in the old city while the inverse is true in other parts of town, and particularly in the trans-Gomti area.

A second map (larger version) visualizes the strength of this effect across Lucknow; green areas are those in which Muslims achieve higher prices than non-Muslims for similar houses - i.e. houses of similar size sold at the same time in the same mohalla - and red areas those in which non-Muslims have an advantage:

If you compare this map to the one of Muslim population distribution, you see that Muslims have an advantage in areas where many Muslims live: in the old city, the areas east thereof, a small corridor towards the South and, interestingly the Cantonment. They have a harder time in Mall Avenue and the trans-Gomti area, where they achieve lower prices because of their religious identity - which on first view seems to confirm allegations of discrimination in these parts of Lucknow (while the same affects non-Muslims in the old city in turn). Jagah!

This finding per se does not yet, however, explain how exactly discrimination might work. This is something I will turn to next week, looking in particular at the role of the local state (and on the way casting a more sceptical view of my raw data source, the Property Index Register). Until then, I am curious for your comments...

  • 1. What the price map does not show is tremendous fluctuation within each part of Lucknow; I thus z-standardized house prices within each mohalla (the smallest administrative unit at which property is registered), effectively applying a spatial bracket
  • 2. Arrived at by dividing the market value recorded in the register by the applicable residential circle rate