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Urban Segregation
"For every city, however small, is, in fact, divided into two, one the city of the poor, the other of the rich; these are at war with one another."
Plato

Real-life cities are vast, diverse mishmashes of different cultures and social groups.

Obviously, the entirety of a city cannot always be adequately presented in a work, and often there is no point in doing so, due to The Law of Conservation of Detail. However, since some diversity is needed, the City of Adventure you happened to end up in will usually be split into districts by their prestige level. Most often, there are three of them:
  • The slum, often a Wretched Hive inhabited by scum and poor people, and, in a Dystopia, it may be a ghetto for beings judged as "inferior" by whoever is in charge. Home to many a Gentleman Thief and Moses in the Bullrushes, among more malicious elements. The Bad-Guy Bar can also be located here if the bad guys are of low enough social class.
  • The "normal" district, where different cultures meet. Often the center of trade activity in the area, as well as the place where you can learn the latest news and gossip. The people here are generally satisfied with their lives, or brainwashed into satisfaction in a dystopia.
  • The elite district, inhabited by the "cream of the crop", usually the aristocrats. The government, if one is featured, also resides here. The inhabitants may be shown as outright evil or simply not caring for the common folk. A Shining City, often featuring Crystal Spires and Togas.

Notice that this also happens in real life: when Guadalajara, Mexico was founded, the rich Spaniards built their estates in the west bank of the San Juan de Dios river, while they built the impoverished workers' dwellings on the east bank to make them defend the city from the frequent attacks of the eastern indigenous tribes, the city has since grown with Crystal Spires and Togas on one side and gritty inner city slums on the other, and the separation remained after the river was piped and paved over with the Independencia avenue. Detroit, USA, is also divided in rich North and poor South by 8 Mile Road, while many smaller western cities are divided in this way by the town's railroad tracks, justifying the phrase "born on the wrong side of the tracks."

While real life segregation is mostly horizontal, a common sci-fi setting is a Layered Metropolis with vertical Urban Segregation - usually the poor live at the bottom in smog and darkness, while the rich live in the upper levels with sunlight and fresh air.


Examples

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    Anime and Manga 
  • An Exaggerated Trope in Kill la Kill: Honnouji town is strictly segregated in four levels... according to how well each family's students are doing at school. No-Stars live in the outermost, poorest levels, and are very individualistic. One-Stars live in massified, uniform apartment blocks, and all look identical to each other. Two-stars live in lavish houses and carry a luxurious, decadent lifestyle. Three-stars and Kiryuuin Satsuki, the Absurdly Powerful Student Council, who rule Honnouji, Academy and Town, with an iron fist, are the innermost circle, there's only a handful of them, and they live without their parents. One and two-stars are extremely commited to the system and to keeping three-stars from rising up, to the point that mothers carrying their babies will whip out a Tommy gun and shoot you if you're breaking the Apartheid.
  • In Getbackers, the limitless fortress(where most of the important stories take place) is separated into 3 levels: Lower town, which is basically a slum and is home to all the "normal" residents. People in this town often wear rags for clothes. The belt line, which is basically the "middle class" of the fortress, mostly houses supernatural monsters who exist only to terrorize residents of lower town. And finally there is Babylon City, the top level, home to the most powerful beings in the Getbackers universe. The top level is basically a palace.
  • In Mai-Otome, the segregation of Windbloom into three "layers" is evident (with the middle "layer" being little more than generic-looking urban sprawl); even though Garderobe and the royal castle are located in opposite parts of the city, they are both part of the "elite", both rising way above the cityscape, and interaction between their residents is usually direct.
  • Code Geass has the Settlements, shining modern cities inhabited by the Britannians, and the Ghettos, the bombed-out remains of the old cities where the Japanese are forced to live. One episode shows that (in Tokyo at least) the dividing line is the train tracks.
  • The Big O's Paradigm City is strictly divided between The Domes, with artificial sunlight and clean air, and "those living outside the domes", who don't even get the benefit of a concise name (at least not in English).
  • Gunnm / Battle Angel Alita: Technocrats living in a floating city (actually, it hangs from an orbiting satellite) and a slum around a trash heap on the surface. Construction of a flying vehicle is a death sentence.
    • Considering that the floating city has suicide booths (called "Endjoy") and has a ritual where all the residents, at age 19, have their brains removed and replaced with biochips, essentially killing them and replacing them with AI copies to create a more orderly society, the trash heap is arguably the better place.
  • Bleach: Aristocrats and shinigami live in the peaceful and elegant Seireitei ("Court of Pure Souls"), the commoners outside the Seireitei walls in the Rukongai ("Town of Wandering Spirits"). There are 80 numbered districts in the Rukongai, those with smaller numbers can be rather nice, but the ones at the end have hellish living conditions. And according to the setting, people who die in the real world get reincarnated in a random Rukongai district.
  • Neo Verona is like this in Romeo X Juliet. The noble people live in the upper parts and the rest in the lower ones.
  • Domino City in Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds. On the quality side, Neo Domino City. About the same quality of life as Domino from the original Yu-Gi-Oh!, plus 25 years or so of technological advancement. On the bad side, Satellite, where the inhabitants recycle trash for a (meager) living and aren't allowed to leave.
  • They may be entirely on entirely different stellar bodies, but the lunar city of Mooneyes is treated much like the upper echelons of society in Basquash!. In contrast, Rollingtown is almost a modern day Earth downtown. Except for the whole Bigfoot mecha thing.
  • The manga and film version of Osamu Tezuka's Metropolis has a layered society, much like the Fritz Lang version below: the elites live in the top of the skyscrapers, middle classes on/near the ground, workers in the first underground layer, while only robots toil in the depths of the city.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam AGE, the rich and middle class inhabitants live in the interior of colonies, where they can enjoy simulated environments and live in well maintained cities. However, the colony's poor are often forced to live in the "underside" of the colony, which would be its outer rim.
  • Goa Kingdom in One Piece has this going on. Like Ba Sing Se (See Western Animation), each class is kept separate by a huge wall. There's the royals and aristocrats living in the center wall, the workers and normal citizens living in the middle wall, and finally the outside slums called Grey Terminal; This is where the kingdom dumps their garbage. The people living there basically live off of the trash, and no one living in the normal city cares what happens in Grey Terminal. The kingdom is basically described as a place where 'everything unwanted is removed'. However, this sort of attitude leads to a Moral Event Horizon when the royal family decides that in order to 'purify' the kingdom, they need to burn Grey Terminal to the ground- people included. Dragon the revolutionary uses this event and kingdom as an example of why this is wrong.
  • In Saturn Apartments there are three sections of the space station where humanity lives. The higher floors,the middle floors, and the lower floors. Nobody's allowed to go to a higher section without a special permit, meaning that the residents of the lower levels are stuck there.

    Comic Books 
  • In Sin City, the rich live in Sacred Oaks, the poor in The Projects. Somewhere in between is Old Town, the city's quasi-autonomous Red Light District.
  • The New York of Marvel 2099 features vertical segregation. The city's affluent classes live and work "Uptown" in luxurious skyscrapers built on top of the existing real estate. At the time of the comics, "Downtown" is a dimly-lit slum only for the poor and needy and desperate; Uptown citizens venturing Downtown are warned to proceed at their own risk.
  • In Cerebus the Aardvark, Iest's Upper City is on a very high and sheer mesa, though this is not made explicit for some years.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Discworld murder mystery Murder Most 'Orrible, Fred Colon and Nobby Nobbs are discussing the nation of Rimwards Howondaland (a South African expy turned Up to Eleven) and its controversial domestic policy of apartheid....
    "What's it all about, Fred?" Nobby asked. "Why do we only have a problem with this embassy's staff doin' a runner?"
    "It's this apartheid thing, Nobby" Fred replied. "Captain Carrot explained the word to me. It means Apart-hood in proper language. Seperation. You have your white people and you have your black people and they live and work apart."
    "Except when the white people needs servants to cook and clean and wash up for them" Nobby mused.
    "Seems a sensible idea, to me." Colon stated. "I mean , you're a big-shot farmer or a diamond dealer, you speak Morporkian – well, after a fashion, anyway. You lives in a proper house and you eats proper food. What are you going to have in common with a native living in a mud hut and callin' himself a Zulu or a Bantu or whatever? Sounds right. Sounds practical. We could do with somethin' like that here. You know, they have their zones of the city and we have ours. Catch a black in the whites-only area without a pass to say he's got a right to be there…"
    "As a cleaner, cook, domestic servant or whatever…" Nobby chimed in,
    "..and you arrest him, bang him up. Everyone knows where they stand then. No nonsense from the blacks, they know their place and woe betide them if they get cheeky!"
Nobby was in a thoughtful silence for a moment or two. Then he spoke.
"But Fred, how's that any different from here?"
"I'm not catching your meaning, Nobby"
"Round here, right, Nob Hill. Forty-odd years ago, when we was both starting out, both of us from Morpork, too poor to afford a pot to piss in, if we dared come round these streets, where all the nobs are, we'd get stopped, right? If you couldn't prove you were here for a reason, right, let's say you worked as a servant for one of the big nobby households, any Lord could have his men beat seven kinds out of you, and then throw you in the Tanty for malicious lingering. They had their zone of the city – here – and we poor buggers had ours. Morpork and the Shades, right? Cross into the rich-only zone without a pass, and the Watch nicked you. If you were lucky. The old Lord Ramkin had my dad whipped and put into the Tanty, for walking on this street without leave."
Nobby paused, and asked
"Ain't that a sort of apartheid, sarge? That poor bugger dint ask to be born black. You and me certainly dint ask to be born poor."
Colon sighed, having again been out-philosophised by Nobbs. The feeling never got any easier with the years.

    Film 
  • The Blind Side: Contrast the wealthy suburban community of the Tuohys and Wingate with the housing projects of Hurt Village.
  • In Fritz Lang's classic movie Metropolis, the poor live in squalor underground, while the rich live high up in towers.
  • In George A. Romero's Land of the Dead, the poor live in slums, while the rich live in Fiddler's Green, protected by a river and an electric fence. This doesn't stop the zombies in the end.
  • In Vexille, the remaining population of Japan lives in a shantytown, while the Mega Corp. has it's own ultra-high-tech island.
  • New York in The Fifth Element is segregated vertically: as the protagonist drives further and further down the buildings get more and more decrepit, finishing with a very thick layer of smog.
  • Coruscant in Star Wars is also a vertically segregated city/planet: diplomatic quarters, the Senate, the Jedi Temple etc are all at the top, while the entertainment district and the industrial district are further down.
    • Star Wars in general loves this trope. Any city that evolves vertically is vertically separated. While Coruscant's lowest levels are home to the filth of society, Nar Shaddaa, which is a slum in its best areas, has its lowest levels infested with all sorts of mutants and dangerous beasts.
  • This trope was actually brought up in the film Candyman.
  • The silent movie The Golem, set mostly in the Jewish ghetto of Prague, treats the issue as a quite obvious subtext. A massive gate separates the Jewish quarter from the Christian town and seems to be always closed, and anyone passing in or out of the ghetto is a cumbersome procedure each time.
  • Although most of 2027 London in Children of Men appears far scruffier and more ramshackle than present-times, there are clearly enclaves within the city where a gentrified lifestyle still occur — although these once-public areas are clearly now highly restricted. When Theo travels in a Rolls Royce to visit Nigel at Battersea, he goes through a check-point clearance gate at Admiralty Arch and travels down The Mall towards Buckingham Palace. During the journey, it appears as if the area around the Palace, St James' Park and Green Park is physically un-changed, although it has now become an exclusive gated enclave, where people relax in the parks, walk dogs (as well as other more exotic animals) and listen to a brass band play whilst the Household Cavalry process by.
  • In Pacific Rim, the poor and downtrodden live along the coast, with the rich and wealthy moving inland, so that they can be protected from the Kaiju attacks. The massive defensive walls that were being built to protect the poor remain unfinished, for the most part; with only a few places like Australia and Russia having their walls complete. Whenever the Kaiju do make landfall, the poor all huddle together inside of cramped Anti-Kaiju Defense Shelters, whereas the rich are secure behind the walls of the gated communities they live in.
    • In the case of Hannibal Chau, he has his own private Anti-Kaiju Defense Shelter, because of an incident that happened inside of a defense shelter that resulted in a messed up eye.
    • Mind you, these shelters are far from ideal, as Kaiju can still breach them, like they do with the Walls of Life.
  • Elysium has a variation of this. The well-to-do live on a space station orbiting Earth, while the downtrodden live in a polluted, slum-ridden Los Angeles.

    Literature 
  • New York City in The Lord of Opium is said to be this, with what remains of the American wealthy living on the tops of the city, with the poor living on the bottom levels and streets.
  • The Ur-example of vertical segregation occurs in H.G. Wells' The Time Machine. The Time Traveler arrives at such a distant point in the future that divergent evolution has transformed the human race into Morlocks and Eloi, and hypothesizes this is the end result of a society where the working-class was moved underground and the middle- and upper-classes remained above ground. He then says (approximately) "Like most neat, simple theories, it was wrong."
  • David Wingrove's Chung Kuo is an extreme example: the entire Earth is covered in a 50-story megastructure, with the elite living up top, a wretched hive of scum and villainy on the bottom, and beneath even that, the poor schlubs who actually live on the ground in utter barbarity.
  • David Weber has it in droves in Honor Harrington series, especially when League or Haven is concerned. Nouveau Paris, Haven's capital, has explicitly separated slums in the form of decrepit kilometer-high habitation towers built during happier times, where only proles now live. Chicago, the capital of the Solarian League, is even more spectacular in this regard, as it's now more that two thousand years old and is a survivor of many wars and revolutions. It even has a stone-age-like troglodytes living on the lowest levels.
  • Terry Pratchett's Discworld has got the famous city Ankh-Morpork. It is divided by the river Ankh into the sections Ankh (where the rich live) and bigger Morpork (where the less well-off live). On the Ankh itself, there lies an island with the Opera House, the Dysk Theatre, a major publishing house, and the main Watch House.
    • There's also the Shades, a Wretched Hive with a dash of Red Light District thrown in, which seems to be pretty well delineated. Earlier books stated that it predates the rest of the city (except possibly the Tower of Art) by so much that the street plan follows stone-age goat paths.
    • It's not quite as clearly delineated as it seems, though; both the Patrician's Palace and Unseen University are on the Morpork side of the river. The "normal" district can probably be considered to be Hubward Morpork, the area around the Palace and Sator Square.
  • Patrick Rothfuss does this with the port city of Tarbean in The Name OF The Wind, which is divided into Waterside (poor) and Hillside (rich). The rich side keeps the beggars out by brutally oppressing the ones who dare show their face in Hillside.
  • H. M. Hoover's This Time of Darkness separates the unschooled laborers from the clueless elites by putting the elites at the top of the city and the laborers at the bottom (the city is much like a giant, windowless skyscraper albeit most of it underground). There's a third group, simple farmer types, who live outside the city in relative peace and prosperity. Oh, and the city gets rid of undesirables downstairs by refusing them jobs and pretty much making them hobos, and gets rid of them upstairs by shoving them outside the city and leaving them to fend for themselves, so over the years they turn feral and become examples used to scare the others into unquestioning obedience.
    • The whole setup screams Aesop about not forgetting history: The laborers get taught only how to obey rules and do jobs (the few who can read are regarded as troublemakers), and believe in Level 80 as a sort of fairy tale ("be good and someday you might get to go there"), the elites have forgotten that there are even laborers living beneath them (they think it's all machinery), and those outside the city don't know about anything within the city, and once they find out, realize there's nothing they can do to fix things. The only people who know what's truly going on are the few who making up the ruling class and law enforcers, and even they seem to have a communication problem.
  • The Expanded Universe novels for Star Wars brought to light that Corsucant was a planet-sized example of this trope. The topmost layers were where the rich and powerful dwelled while the rotting layers of city beneath were filled with criminals, vagrants and mutated creatures where no 'civilized' person would dream of going.
  • Bored of the Rings parodies this by making the Minas Tirith knockoff have nine city levels, each with better life quality than the previous ones. The people of the higher levels keep throwing their garbage to the lower ones, and on the lowest level people are so poor they have to eat it to survive.
    • So it's basically a giant wormery?
    • Pratchett homages this in Jingo, where Sam Vimes is contemplating gnolls, the lowly city scavengers, who live on the absolute dregs cascading down from all the social levels above.
  • In the unnamed city in Swordspoint, the nobility lives on the Hill while the poor and the criminals live in Riverside.
  • In Havemercy, Thremedon is divided into three districts of different levels of prosperity.
  • Axiom Nexus in the Transformers: TransTech universe is arranged into Zones, each of which is further subdivided into levels. They range from the upper zones which are upper-class and usually reserved exclusively for the native TransTech denizens, down to The Heap, a lawless trash-filled place described in the visitors' info pamphlet as a place to "Stay out [of] unless you really want to die."
  • In The Chosen, we are shown the Hassidic district of New York City and the less conservative district. The various gentile districts never is shown as the focus is on Jews. There seems little difference in wealth; everybody is a reasonably prosperous middle class.
  • In Uglies people in their late teens and early 20s who have had the "Pretty" operation live in the middle of the city in New Pretty Town, while people aged 12-16 who are too young to have the operation live in Uglyville, separated by New Pretty Town by a river. Middle-aged and elderly pretties live in the suburbs. Li
  • Mortal Engines makes use of the Layered Metropolis version of this trope. All the mobile Traction Cities in the setting are composed of stacked layers, with the lowermost Tier housing the poor (or even slaves on the less pleasant cities), while the rich have their mansions in the fresh air and sunlight of the top Tier. Larger cities have more than two Tiers (up to a dozen in the largest ones) and so allow for finer social gradation. The bottom Tiers also house the giant engines that move Traction Cities, which helps make them very unpleasant places to work and live.
  • Chicago in the Divergent series is split up in five factions and five corresponding living areas - with the slums left for the Factionless.
  • District 12 in The Hunger Games is divided in two-the town and the seam.
  • Done to anvilicious extent in Market Forces by Richard K. Morgan, in which the City of London in 2049 appears to have no middle class whatsover, being a gated community surrounded by Zones of crime-ridden ghettos.

    Live Action TV 
  • In the Doctor Who episode "Gridlock", it is revealed that the poor people of New New York live in underground slums, while the rich live above ground. Or they would, if the latter weren't all dead.
  • The title station in Babylon 5 is mostly a very clean place with lots of shiny metal architecture. Then there's Down Below, a grimy crime-ridden section filled with petty criminals, gangsters, and the just plain luckless who got stranded on the station when their money ran out.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Hive cities in Warhammer 40,000 put a literal spin on the concept of a pyramid hierarchy; the wealthy, distinguished elite of society live closest to the top, with the living standard going down as you move down the hive. At the very bottom is the Underhive, populated by tribes of scavengers who live off the garbage dumped from the upper levels and generally have little contact with the rest of the society. Below that live mutants and monsters, and below that even worse mutants and monsters, and so on. Therefore, the underhive is usually considered a practical and efficient barrier between the elite and danger.
    • Although the traditional structure, this is not always the case. In one of the Hives from the Dark Heresy background, the rich all live in the middle and particularly at the bottom, whilst the 'underhive' is actually the surface area of the Hive. This is because the Hive is located in the middle of a desert in the baking sun and as such shade, coolness and air conditioning is considered a premium.
    • It gets even more complicated in Petropolis, a subsector capital where much of Dan Abnett's Ravenor series takes place. Wealthy and powerful there live in the center, as Eustis Majoris, the planet is sits on, is so polluted that acid rain is a significant threat on the upper levels, and underhive is a usual wretched den of gangs and criminals, as in most imperial hive cities.
    • In Sandy Mitchell's Scourge the Heretic, Icenholm is not a hive city — but it has the same effect, being a city suspended over a (deep) mine, with status rising as you rose.
  • In the Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting Eberron, Sharn, the city of Towers, is divided in multiple wards and levels. Like the 40k hives, the lower you are, the poorer you are. In decreasing level of prestige, the levels are: Skyway, High City, Middle City, Lower City & the Cogs. In fact, Sharn takes things a step further than usual. The High City is the tops of the towers, but it's only for the independently wealthy. If you're obscenely wealthy, your entire Skyway estate floats above the entire city.

    More in depths, districts begin mixing it up. The high/middle/lower divisions are divided into five quarters based on their horizontal position. Upper Dura is in fact less prestigious than Lower Northedge, while Lower Dura is practically the Cogs. Lower Tavik's is a mix of slums and the usual trappings of rail stations, while Upper Tavik's is on par with Skyway in terms of prestige and bests them when it comes to keeping out the riffraff. (Well, they best them because the district has it's own private security. Skyway simply keeps the riffraff out because its flying and the riffraff is generally not expected to be able to afford the transportation to go there.)
  • Some sourcebooks for Vampire: The Masquerade point out that if player characters are part of the Camarilla, they should actively encourage this state of affairs as a part of their need for blood. Rich people, the reasoning goes, are bored and decadent and prone to do mind-numbing things in strange places with strange people, while poor people are isolated, powerless, and ignored by authorities. Both make them good prey for vampires bent on enforcing the title Masquerade. When cities are full of content middle-class professionals who go home to the suburbs before sundown, vampires go hungry.
  • In Magic: The Gathering's Ravnica block, Ravnica is implied to have urban segregation like this. Again, the rich and the prestigious guilds (Selenya, Izzet, Azorius) live on top, while the poor and the guilds more associated with manual labour (Golgari, Rakdos, Boros and Dimir if it existed, which it does not) live closer to street level.
  • In Gurps Traveller Starports a typical starport city will have the port district ruled directly by the Imperium, the rest of the city ruled by the natives, and the Startown on the border of jurisdictions where law enforcement is tangled up and the less seemly members of the population live.

    Video Games 
  • Diablo II: Lower Kurast, Kurast Bazaar, and Upper Kurast.
    • Of course, all three of these areas are inhabited by murderous demon-possessed fanatics. There isn't a lot to distinguish Lower Kurast from Upper Kurast.
  • Knights of the Old Republic: the three layers of the city-planet of Taris—the Upper City, the Lower City, and the Undercity. The farther down you go, the worse it gets.
    • And the upper layer got obliterated when Malak order its destruction, with lower levels mostly surviving. Sometimes it's good to be poor.
      • Except the people at the bottom had all the rubble fall on them. So, it kind of sucks either way.
      • Plus, the upper levels were mostly human supremacists and the lowest levels were filled with disease, lack of sunlight, very few supplies, and giant monsters as well as being used as bases for some of the meanest and dirtiest gangs. Sometimes the Sith do good works.
  • Final Fantasy VI has Jidoor, which is segregated between the middle class to the south and the rich to the north, the poor residents of the city banished to the Wretched Hive city of Zozo.
  • One of the most famous examples: Final Fantasy VII actually sported three.
    • The giant city of Midgar, which is divided into "above the plate" (rich) and "below the plate" (absolute slums). Since the city was built outwards and upwards in a circular tier shape, sunlight often didn't reach the bottom bits.
    • Junon, with paved streets and nice houses on either side of the cannon, slowly smothering the small fishing village it was built over to death.
    • The Gold Saucer, though technically not a town, follows the same pattern. There's a glitzy casino/amusement park on top - again, elevated off the ground - with a shantytown (the remains of a certain character's Doomed Hometown) filled with debtors and criminals at its base.
  • Final Fantasy IX has Lindblum where there are different districts, some of which are blatantly poorer than others. There's no tension because of this though as Lindblum is a giant sprawling industrial city with jobs for everyone.
    • Treno, reverses the usual trend as a city divided into the rich section by the low-ground (along the water) and the poor, crime-ridden section built up the hill.
  • Final Fantasy XII does this twice, with Rabanastre and Archades.
  • Valua in Skies of Arcadia. Like Midgar, it lacks middle ground, though arguably the rich are the middle class and the palace, on a separate landmass, is where the most elite are.
    • If you could call it "middle" class. One of the residents of the upper city complains of an empty feeling in her life, which she immediately decides to fill by installing a solid silver bathtub next to her solid gold shitter. Meanwhile, in the lower city, you can meet a little girl whose fondest wish is to try the soft white bread residents of the upper city eat, because in the lower city they only have black bread that's so hard, eating a meal means running the risk of losing a tooth.
  • Summoner had Lenele, featuring the Crown District, the rest of the city, and the Old City (along with the ubiquitous sewers).
  • In Beneath a Steel Sky, the poor are forced to live high up in steel towers, where there is a great deal of pollution, while the rich live in hermetically-sealed safety on the ground.
  • In Neverwinter Nights 2, the city of Neverwinter is divided into exactly, you guessed it, three areas. The Docks, home to the petty criminals and organised crime; the merchant district, with a lot of shopkeepers and such; and the Blacklake district, location of the seat of government, the archives, the academy and the vast majority of the nobility.
    • The first Neverwinter Nights had the Beggars' Nest (what it sounds like) and Peninsula (prison) districts also.
      • In the first game the academy was actually in the Beggers' Nest. And despite being dominated by a prison, the Peninsula district was middle-class.
  • The city of Rogueport in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door may seem like one big slum, but there is a hierarchy: Robbo territory in east Rogueport qualifies as the slums of the slums, and you either have to pay Gus 10 coins every time you want to pass, or beat him in a fight. The west side, however, is as elite as Rogueport gets. It's run by the Piantas, who in this city are a mafia-esque organization who run a casino and who actually help you twice over the course of the plot.
    • That's right. Mario worked for the mafia.
    • Then you have the Absurdly Spacious Sewers, which are home to madmen and people who need to stay even farther off the radar than the people living topside.
  • Illusion of Gaia has the town of Freejia, with a very well-kept neighborhood on the side facing the main entrance... and a back-alley slum with slave laborers on the other side.
  • In Baldur's Gate, the title city is divided into six sections (which can get annoying to navigate due to the city having double walls), based more on geography than anything else - the districts flow into each other, rather can being completely self-contained. The sequel, 'Shadows Of Amn'' decided to make ease of navigation more important than complete verisimilitude, and divided up Amn's capital of Athkatla into a Government District, the Slums, the Temple District, the Graveyard, the Docks, the Gate, and Waukeen's Promenade (market district), none of which have geographical landmarks in common with each other. (There's also the sewers under the Slums, and another set under the Temple. The Government district should probably have one too, being full of rich people who can afford plumbing.)
  • Bowerstone in Fable is divided into three sections, a rich, a poor and a docks section.
    • In the sequel, Bowerstone has a pretty average area which is either the lower or upper class based on your earlier actions. Old Town can be an up market area with expensive, but well stocked shops or the most wretched hive of scum and villainy this side of the Wraithmarsh.
    • In Fable III, Bowerstone Industrial is a slum, Bowerstone Old Town is a middle-class neighborhood, and Bowerstone Market is an upscale neighborhood. However, all the really rich people apparently live in nearby Millfields.
  • Each of the three cities in Assassin's Creed I, Jerusalem, Acre and Damascus, are split into Rich, Poor, and Middle districts.
  • Pops up in all three Deus Ex games:
    • In the first game, The poorer parts of New York have been literally walled off from the rest of the city to cork up the high crime and rioting taking place.
    • In Deus Ex: Invisible War Futuristic Seattle is split into Upper Seattle and Lower Seattle, connecting by the Inclinator, a large transport elevator. Upper Seattle residents are rich and live in luxury, and they had robotic servants. The residents of Lower Seattle live in slums and have to worry about wild mutants and cyborgs. They seemed to have made the best of the mutant problem though; they use them for something similar to a cockfight.
      • In Cairo the WTO-controlled Arcology is prosperous while the outer Medina is infested with a nano-machine plague. You require a passport to get from the outer area to the upper area.
    • Heng Sha in Deus Ex: Human Revolution is divided between upper and lower cities as well. In contrast to the other examples, Lower Heng Sha is clearly not the worst place, having an impressive skyline of its own and home to the city's entertainment districts. It actually comes off as more vibrant than Upper Heng Sha which hosts universities, research centres, and corporate headquarters. That said, the impeccabily modern and shiny upper city is so expensive that many of society's less fortunate end up in the lower city anyway.
  • Pacific City in Crackdown is divided into three regions: the western part of the city is residential and "normal," the southeastern part is an industrial hell, and to the northeast is the clean and futuristic (but still corrupt) region.
  • Project Eden has conditions degrade drastically as soon as you leave the top parts of the city
  • Suikoden II has Two River City, a city split into three sections by two rivers. One section contains only Humans, another only Wingers, and the third only Kobold. The Wingers seem to be the slum section, while the Human the elite. As to where the Kobold fit in, this troper is not quite sure.
  • Tales of Symphonia has Meltokio, Tethe'alla's crown city. For the most part, the city is as upscale as it gets, with the castle, church, and aristocracy on the upper level. One corner of the lower level of the city is home to the slums, which are populated by the poor, the sick, and the just plain unlucky.
    • The first town in Tales of Vesperia also has this in place, being explicitly divided into the modest "Lower Quarter", and the thriving "Upper Quarter". This is emphasized in the story where the lower quarter's sole blastia malfunctions. This is trivial, when one sees that the Upper Quarter is chock full of blastia.
  • Romancing SaGa has Estamir, a city straddling a river. North Estamir borders the lush kingdom of Rosalia, and is a wealthy port town, boasting a massive temple dedicated to the goddess of love, Amut, a vast selection of high-scale shops, and a very comfortable aristocracy. South Estamir, meanwhile, is a slum ruled by slavers, where thugs and beggars alike chase after anyone they think has money.
  • RuneScape has Varrock; north Varrock is populated by the wealthy, while its southern half is run-down.
    • There's also Ardougne; The eastern part of Ardougne is wealthy, while the western part is full of the poor and the so-called plague victims.
    • Keldagrim, on the west of the Kelda River is rich dwarves and the Black Guard's fortress, the east side is mostly an industrial section.
    • There's also Meiyerditch and Darkmeyer. Meiyerditch is practically a blood farm but Darkmeyer itself is divided into 3 zones based on wealth of the inhabitants.
  • The dwarven city of Orzammar in Dragon Age: Origins is segregated into the Diamond Quarter (where the Noble Caste lives), the Commons (where the Merchant Caste does their business), the Proving Grounds (where the Warrior Caste spends their time), and Dust Town (the only place in the city where casteless can live). Given the dwarven caste system, Kal Sharok is likely divided the same way.
  • Bully has the town of Bullworth, which has the rich suburb Old Bullworth Vale and the downtown political and commercial district Bullworth Town separated from the inner city ghetto New Coventry and the rough blue collar industrial neighborhood Blue Skies Industrial Park by a railway bridge.
  • Shin Megami Tensei II: The last bastion of humanity After the End is split into The Center, a safe haven for all the important, privileged and religious people; and Valhalla, which isn't exactly a dump but is at risk from wandering demons. Unlike most examples of this trope there is a small degree of social mobility: a battle royale where the victor wins citizenship in the Center.
  • Fallout 2's Vault City is divided between the Citizens who have access to high tech services and a good quality life and the Denizens who live in the slums outside the city proper and can only get in by passing a ridiculously hard citizen test (which most Citizens would not be able to pass either) or becoming "servants", i.e. slaves (but the Citizens get really annoyed if you call them that).
    • Most other places in the Fallout verse have no problems like this though, one of the few improvements they have over modern society. But then again they live in a post apocalyptic kill or be killed slaver and monster infested hellhole.
    • Similar to Vault City, Fallout: New Vegas has the eponymous New Vegas: whilst the New Vegas strip is luxurious and mostly untouched by the Great War, the entrance fee is expensive, resulting in only the rich and the NCR being granted entrance. Both Westside and Freeside are slums with different advantages and disadvantages; Westside has it's own militia and is largely self-dependent, but is frequently attacked but Raiders and Fiends, whereas Freeside is home to the selfless Followers of the Apocalypse, but the streets are so dangerous that hiring a body guard isn't just recommended, it's common practice.
  • In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, The cantons of Vivec have a bit of this going on. The lower you are in one of the cantons the worse off people are, until you get to the sewers which tend to be filled with vermin. And rats.
    • Most of the major cities had a subtle amount of segregation. Note Balmora with "Poor Town", "Commercial Row" and "Temple (or High) Hill", or Ald'Rhun with "Under Skar".
    • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion features this not only in its cities, but also in the country. The Imperial City is mostly marbled homes, where most people live well. But the Waterfront is where all the poor live, and their houses are made of wood planks. Bravil is almost all wooden houses, and most of the people are working class. Leawynn (The farthest south) is nice, but the center of town is smaller homes, usually stucco (Or the Tamriel-ian equivalent) and low end, but this is territory taken from the Kajiit and Argonians, with a giant swamp nearby (Blackmarsh). Cheydinhall is nicely architectured, and most of the folks are rich here. Anvil is a mix, but the lower end housing is outside the city, along the docks. Bruma has all the poor housing behind the church, while the nicer homes are on the three tiers that lead to the castle. Overall, the farther south you go, the lower class everyone appears to be.
    • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim features this in several of the major cities. Markarth is mostly a city of gray-white stone built into an old dwarven ruin, where the middle class lives on the ground level, the nobility in the upper levels of the cliffs around the main keep, and the poor underclass lives in tunnels referred to as the "Warrens." Windhelm, capital of the Stormcloak rebels, is more conventional, with the west side of the city featuring large mansions and the east side of the city being a slum with narrow alleys. The former is home to the native Nord nobility, while the latter is home to the poorer Dunmer immigrants. (Argonians who work the docks aren't even allowed in the city in the first place). A more benevolent version is the central city of Whiterun, built around a large hill, where the business/lower class "Plains" district is located at the bottom of the hill, the residential "Wind" district is partway up the hill, and the Jarl's keep is located in the "Cloud" district at the top of the hill.
  • The Witcher video game. The city of Vizima is made up of the the not-visited-in-this-game but presumably elite Royal Quarter, the rich Trade Quarter, the poor Temple Quarter, and the plague-infested nonhuman ghetto of Old Vizima. Each district is separated by some very solid looking walls.
  • Vandal Hearts has an interesting version early on. In the capital city the former aristocrats who supported the reign of the Holy Asha Dynasty now live in the "blue blood ghetto" downtown. In the upper echelons of the new democracy are former members of the Liberation Army, comprised mainly of peasants. Hel Spites, the defense minister, seems to be a remnant of the old kingdom tohugh, as do his elite Blood Knights.
  • In The Sims 2, the Belladonna Cove city is separated into a poor area inner city area (where there are cheap apartment blocks, a trailer park, and run-down coffee shops), a middle-class area where the house and apartment prices increase and there's more parks, and a wealthy area above the rest on a hill with high-tech expensive apartments and mansions.
  • Panzer Dragoon Saga has a city that is divided up for religious reasons. Those who have ancestors who lived within the ancient forest (the only spot of real life for miles) get to live in an enclosed part of the village, only they can eat the fruit of the forest and they don't let anybody else to eat it. Meanwhile, outside of the wall is a whole village of people who are hoping to be granted permission to go into the city proper and also to make a living off what the elite do sell/buy.
  • Orgrimmar in World of Warcraft has Garrosh practically enforce this. The largest and most trafficked areas are dominated by the Orcs, with the Taurens receiving a smaller but still nice valley of their own. The Goblins are relegated to an area deemed the "Goblin Slums", brushing elbows with the Trolls who have been forced even further from the main city.
  • The main city of Dragon's Dogma is Gran Soren, which has a Noble Quarter, Craftsman's Quarter, Urban Quarter, and the slums, which are reached by going through an aqueduct at the bottom of the city. The Noble Quarter has the Duke's castle, where the extra fancy people live.

    Web Comics 
  • The Continentals: In the steampunk murder, mystery, scifi adventure webcomic "The Continentals", the city of Mansfordshire is figuratively and literally divided into two halves-The high society Westend known as "The Heights" and the lower class Eastend known as "The Narrows"-by a series of interlocking back alleyways known as "The Divide". Find it here.

    Web Original 
  • The city of Shinboku in Tasakeru is divided into eight sections, one for each of the sentient species, separated by high stone walls. This is mostly a peacekeeping measure.

    Western Animation 
  • The Earth Kingdom capital Ba Sing Se (The Impenetrable City) in Avatar: The Last Airbender , in which the three districts are divided by big huge walls. The outer ring is home to the refugees from the war, menial laborers, and other poorer inhabitants; it is described by Joo Dee as "quaint" and "lively," but she also warns visitors to watch where they walk. The middle ring is home to the middle class; government functionaries, business owners, and artisans. The inner ring is where the Earth King himself lives and is home to the wealthy aristocracy of the city, including the Avatar when he and his team traveled to the city in order to meet with the Earth King.
  • Exaggerated ridiculously in The Fairly OddParents - Chester and AJ literally live across the railroad tracks from each other. However, Chester's side is a rundown trailer park, and AJ's side is a wealthy suburb where everyone lives in a huge house.
  • Hill Valley in The Oblongs is divided between "the Hills" (upper-class) and "the valley" (horrible polution). One line implied that the people from the valley can't afford to live anywhere else because they spend all of their money on treating the illness they get from living there, which makes sense as anybody born there suffers from at least one birth defect. The titular family has a man from the Valley (who has no arms or legs) married to a Hill girl, she moved into the valley and lost all her hair, though she wears a wig most of the time.
  • The city of Springfield from The Simpsons underwent that when the city adopted new area codes. 939 was the poor area while 636 was the rich area and a wall was built between the two areas, later the 939 side was soon populated by only Homer and his family.
    • Which was more like the inner german wall in Berlin making 939 the East and 636 the West.

    Real Life 
  • Needless to say, this happens in real life. Virtually every city big enough to have seperate neighborhoods will have posh residential districts and places to avoid after nightfall.
  • Tel-Aviv, Israel used to (and in many ways still does) fit this trope. There are rich neighbourhoods (some of the richest in the country) and expensive residential towers in the north, industry and slums in the south (now housing a very large illegal immigrant community), and a cosmopolitan commercial center.
  • The north sides of Cork and Dublin are poor, their south sides posh.
  • Not within a city but a metro area: Detroit's northern limit is Eight Mile Road. Things get much, much nicer about a mile north of that.
  • There are exceptions, but property values in Omaha, Nebraska take a sharp jump once you cross 72nd Street.
  • This is a general rule for Chicago as well—north of the Loop is generally rich, south of the Loop and West of the river is generally poor. There's a racial aspect as well: if you ride a Red Line train from one end to the other (it runs north-south roughly near Lake Michigan), you will see the racial composition of the train's passengers go from mostly white to mostly black or vice versa.
    • Same with the 192 bus route in Manchester. Everybody gets on in the city centre. The majority of black Afro-Caribbean people will have left the bus by Ardwick/Longsight. The majority of Asian people will get off in Levenshulme. The people on the bus who stay on into Stockport are going to be 95% white.
  • Baltimore, of The Wire fame, is an odd subversion. While the city is fairly small as million-plus (counting commute-in workers and residents) cities go, there are a bewildering number of neighborhoods of varying and almost seemingly randomized class levels; a short drive can take one through areas of affluence to poverty and back again. Even in upscale Inner Harbor, the long row of "gentleman's clubs" on Baltimore Avenue presents an alarming and abrupt contrast.
  • This is also how most medieval European towns (especially those founded according to German law) were organized. City center housed Town Hall, townhouses of rich burghers and town square that was equivalent with City of Adventure "Merchant District". Artisans lived nearby and poorer inhabitants lived on the periphery, usually close to the city walls. Also clergy lived in separate part of the city, usually close to church or cathedral. Additionally, in cities with several lines of walls the richer the people the closer to the innermost city they lived as peripheral "rings" were more likely to be overrun and demolished in the case of war.
    • This is still the case for many European cities, especially ones where tourism has driven real estate prices in the city center sky high. Paris is very well-known for having a very high class center while the suburbs have high crime rates and riots every few years.
    • Brussels is an interesting case, where there is segregation between the local Belgians and the so-called Eurocrats, (EU government officials also being expatriates from other EU member states). Most of the Eurocrats reside in the so-called European Quarter, which some people even call an "administrative ghetto" or "white-collar ghetto" of the EU. (See here for more details.)
  • Phoenix, Arizona and its surrounding metropolitan area has the richer denizens living in the north and eastern parts of town, while the less-well-off tend to live in the south and western parts of the valley. There are of course some exceptions, but everyone generally agrees that south Phoenix is the poorest area.
  • Many if not all "Gated Communities" count.
    • This may be a misperception at least for all but the most upper class and exclusive communities. Generally, while such things as crime decrease when a community is first opened, over time, the community statistics will normalize to the surroundings due to things like the pizza guy needed the gate code (which in turn allows less savory types to get the gate code). Thus, ironically, eventually people believe their community is in fact much better than it actually is.
      • Also, gated communities have fewer bystanders hanging around, reducing the chance of samaritanism and helpful witnesses. The security measures are also unfortunately effective at delaying the response time of police, firemen, and paramedics.
  • In the city of Atlanta, northern Atlanta and the Buckhead area tends to be more well of than south Atlanta (or the "swats"). In the metro Atlanta area, it is pretty much common knowledge that the northern counties (North Fulton, North Dekalb, Cobb, Cherokee, etc.) are generally richer and usually has more white people than the southern areas (e.g. South Dekalb, Clayton). Knowing this, when a majority white northern part of Atlanta split off into the city of Sandy Springs in 2005 (and is even considering splitting off from Fulton County itself), this has caused many black leaders to accuse them of racism to sue the city and demand that the town be dissolved.
  • If you take the 4, 5, or 6 train in the New York City Subway uptown, you'll cross a border from some of the richest neighborhoods in the country - the Upper East Side - to some of the poorest urban neighborhoods in the country - East Harlem and the South Bronx. The division is stark enough that you can witness the demographic shift at the 96th Street stop.
    • Interestingly enough, if you keep riding north in the Bronx, the neighborhood will actually improve as you get into Riverdale and closer to Westchester County.
  • Contrast the districts of Makati and Pandacan in Manila.
  • Rio De Janiero's famous skyline has favelas, which are quite poor and often full of drug-related crime, contrasting sharply to luxury suburbs.
  • In Istanbul during the days of the Ottoman Empire, much of the city was like this. Part of the reason was the Millet system in which different ethnic and religious groups had neighborhoods set aside for them with leaders that answered to The Government. In some ways, this was pre-Ottoman. During the conquest in 1453, some neighborhoods were able to avoid Rape, Pillage, and Burn by forting up and then making a separate peace; just forcing the invaders to stop and take a breath before continuing the sack was sometimes enough to save a neighborhood.
  • Tokyo can be broadly divided into Yamanote ("towards the mountain") and Shitamachi ("low city") - the former occupy the mountainous areas generally to the west of the Imperial Palace, the latter the low-lying areas surrounding the Sumida and Arakawa Rivers east of the Imperial Palace. Yamanote was where samurai and other nobles resided during the Edo period; today, its dialect is considered standard Japanese and is the home of modern Japan (it's where the huge corporate conglomerates and its white-collar office workers are, as well as towering skyscrapers and the latest in contemporary culture). Shitamachi was where the lower class of artisans and merchants lived during the Edo period; today its dialect is considered rough and low-class (though it also carries a straightforward, honest connotation), and the shops there are by and large small businesses run by entrepreneurs. Shitamachi also carries an image of being traditional (as in the Edo era), a recent emergence compared to Yamanote's present and future-looking orientation.
  • Philadelphia has an interesting one. Within Philly, the downtown area—Center City—is well-off, and things only gradually get worse after a certain point as you go further north, south, or west into Pennsylvania before getting nicer again; the lines have also been steadily moving closer together since about 2000. However, there is one area with a stark dividing line—going east across the Delaware River into New Jersey from Center City, you hit Camden, the most dangerous city in America. The dividing line is particularly stark, because within Camden, there is a reasonably pleasant area immediately south of the bridge from Philadelphia (on account of the various educational, medical, and civic buildings in that area), but immediately north of the bridge is a hellhole that nobody who lives elsewhere dares go.
  • Anything north and west of Munich (which mostly is flat planes) is filled wit with working-class apartment blocks, main roads and industrial parks, while the south and east (much more hilly and extending to the alps) feature all the more affluent suburbs, hamlets and commercial settlements.


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