Milan, with its 1.4 million inhabitants, is the second largest city, the largest metropolitan area in Italy (4.3 million), and the regional capital of the Lombardy region. Already an important city in the Late Antiquity, it kept its important role connecting trade and production throughout its history. Between the 19th and 20th centuries, it became the ‘economic capital’ of Italy, a focal point for the industrialisation and modernisation of the country, being both a blue- and a white-collar city.

Whilst being an important industrial centre, Milan was also early in its tertiarisation process: it is the headquarters for many important financial institutions (e.g. the Italian stock exchange) and the Italian capital of fashion, design and media industries – features that made its name world-famous, together with its cultural institutions (eg. the La Scala opera house).

The province of Milan has consistently been the wealthiest of the country: its per capita GDP the highest in Italy (approx. 80% higher than the national average). However, this hasn’t necessarily meant that wealth is equally distributed. Compared to other Italian cities, Milan has an unbalanced income distribution: the richest 10% owns 40% of the income; their income is 22 times larger than that of the poorest 10% (a Gini index of 0.51, by far the highest among the largest Italian metropolitan areas. ) In summary, there is a rich upper class (richer than in other Italian cities), and an uneven distribution of wealth.

As an important industrial and tertiary hub, Milan has been attracting in-migrants from the post-war period, first internal and then international. Nowadays, it hosts 260,000 foreign residents, from different areas: the first 10 origin countries account for two-thirds of resident foreigners.
Foreign residents make up 19% of the total municipal population, with a diversity more and more visible in the urban and social fabric. It is both a place where tensions took place (e.g. the riots in the so-called “Chinatown” of Via Sarpi in 2007), but also where activism of new generations of hyphenated Milanese and Italians is more visible.

Our fieldwork will take place mostly in the Northern area of Milan, where the administrative Districts 2, 8 and 9 are located. We will focus mainly on Zona 2 (District 2), in the north-eastern area of the city, which connects Milan with various manufacturing plants in its metropolitan area (from Sesto San Giovanni to Monza-Brianza). The industrial character of the area is more and more fading, and a process of tertiarisation of brown lands has started (e.g. the Pirelli area).

Intersected by various transport lines, it is a very mixed and differentiated area, which had a dramatic development in the second half of 20th century. Some of the neighbourhoods in the district were autonomous municipalities till the early 20th century, and have been ‘swallowed up’ by the big city during booming years.

The presence of transport facilities and of some deteriorating housing eased the settlement of international migrants. Nowadays, 28% of residents are foreigners – by far the highest share among Milan districts. It, also has a peculiar profile: together with nearby District 9, it has the highest share of male migrants, but also the highest share of young children with foreign citizenship.

District Images

Key Statistics

ITALY Italy Lombardy Milan District 2
Area (km2) 302 070.80 23 863.70 181.7 12.6
Total population [2] 59 685 227 9 794 525 1 366 409 154 026
Average per capita income [5] 23 241 25 823 35 751 30 500 [6]
Unemployment rate [7] 10.8 7.6 7 n.a.
Minors recipient of social assistance [10] 5.8% 5.9% 7.5% 7.8%
One-member households 31.2% 32% 45.6% 45.8%
Large households 5.7% 4.4% 3% 3.1%
Highest level of education completed [4] Italy Lombardy Milan District 2
ISCED 1-2 43.1 40.4 29.4 30.4
ISCED 3-4 41.1 43.1 41.3 43.4
ISCED 5-6 15.7 16.5 29.3 26.2
Citizenship of residents (%) [9] Italy Lombardy Milan District 2
Italian 92.5 89.3 80.9 71.7
Philipino 0.2 0.5 2.9 5.4
Egyptian 0.1 0.7 2.6 4.2
Chinese 0.3 0.5 1.8 2.8
Peruan 0.2 0.4 1.5 2.4
Bangladeshi 0.1 0.2 0.4 1.6
Sri Lankan 0.1 0.3 1.2 1.6
Ecuadorean 0.2 0.4 1.1 1.5
Romanian 1.6 1.4 1.1 1.4
Ukrainian 0.3 0.4 0.6 0.7
Albanian 0.8 1 0.4 0.6
Moroccan 0.7 1.1 0.6 0.6
Senegalese 0.1 0.3 0.2 0.4
Moldovan 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.3
Pakistani 0.1 0.3 0.1 0.2
Indian 0.2 0.5 0.1 0.1
Polish 0.2 0.1 0.1 0.1
Tunisian 0.2 0.2 0.1 0.1
Nigerian 0.1 0.1 0.1
Macedonian 0.1 0.1
Other 1.5 2.2 4 4.4
Age Groups

Milan Minors

Milan Elders


2. Municipal registry and Istat, 31/12/2012                 
3. Municipal registry and Istat, 31/12/2010                
4. Labour Force Survey, 2012. For the neighbourhood level, estimation based on Census 2001.                
5. Taxable individual income, Ministry of Economy and Finance, 2010.                    
6. Estimation based on taxable individual income in 2004.                
7. Istat survey on labour force, 2012                
8. Municipal registry (31/12/2012) and Census (2011)                
9. Muncipal registry (31/12/2012) and Istat (31/12/2010) – first 20 citizenships at national level.                 
10. Activities of professional social workers.                 
Own calculation on Muncipality of Milan – Family Policy Service, 2010 and Istat Survey on Municipal welfare, 2010.

Milan Reports

Urban Policies on Diversity

Critical analysis of existing urban policy programmes and discourses in the case study city. Includes overview of political systems and governance structures, key shifts in national discourses, and approaches to policy over migration, citizenship, and diversity.

Governance Arrangements and Initiatives

Analysis of local governance arrangements and initiatives in the case study area that target social cohesion, social mobility and economic performance.

Work Package 5 Initiatives

Fieldwork Inhabitants

Analysis of how urban diversity and policies and arrangements affect different population groups living in cities in terms of social cohesion and social mobility.

Fieldwork Entrepreneurs

Analysis of how urban diversity and policies and arrangements with respect to urban diversity affect different population groups living in cities in terms of economic performance and to clarify who (which social groups) profit and how they profit.

Milan News

Milan City Book


Milan, the focus of this book, currently has 3.2 million inhabitants in the metropolitan administrative area, and 1.3 million in the municipality. It is a highly diverse city in terms of population: 13.1% of residents

Diverse Cities in Milan

Over a three month period, the Milan team worked with teachers on the Diverse Cities Education Programme in a school in the north eastern area of Zona di Decentramento 2 in Via Padova. The area