The existence of spatial inequalities is not a novelty in Switzerland. The cleavage between wealthy cities
and poor rural and mountainous places is centuries-old being a cornerstone of present Swiss cooperative
federalism. Yet, as a consequence of metropolitanization, this urban-rural pattern of political, social and
economic divergences has been supplemented during the last century by a complex pattern of city-suburb
disparities. As the proportions of people and activities in urban areas increase, metropolitan inequalities
become a new challenge for the democratic Welfare State.
Applying the protocol of the third phase of the International Metropolitan Observatory (IMO) we will
develop our argument in three sections. First we will assess spatial disparities within and across Swiss
metropolitan areas. Second we will establish regional regimes and patterns of local capacities to address
social inequalities. Finally we will examine the distribution of local government expenditures and distinct
public policy profiles. In all three sections data will be used that has not yet been available.
In order to explain disparities in local revenues and expenditures we will rely on socio-structural, political
and institutional variables. Hence, besides spatial concentrations of disadvantaged and privileged groups,
political preferences as well as metropolitan regimes as regards taxation, fiscal equalization and
communal autonomy are assumed to affect spatial inequalities.
Our findings reveal that the interaction between taxation and fiscal equalisation conditions spatial
inequalities with respect to local governance capacities and that despite the highly decentralised character
of the Swiss political system, socio-economic and institutional determinants leave not much room for