At the end of the 19th Century, with the aim of improving the knowledge about the city and the characteristics of its different parts, the city administration established a division of the city into districts (Division into Ten Municipal Districts for Internal Purposes, passed by the City Council on April 24, 1897, due to the aggregation to Barcelona of the villages of the plain). The Statistical Yearbooks of the early 20th Century already provide plenty of data for districts and neighbourhoods
In 1984 a new territorial division of Barcelona was established (City Council session, January 18, 1984), following the great social and urban transformations of the 1960s and 1970s. The passing of the new division was the end of a process carried out by a citizens’ commission in which different entities and administrative bodies, as well as experts, took part. From that date the city of Barcelona is divided into 10 municipal districts, the following hierarchical subdivisions (until 2008):
- 10 Municipal Districts
- 38 Large Statistical Zones (Zones Estadístiques Grans, ZEG)
- 248 Small Research Zones (Zones de Recerca Petita, ZRP)
- 1917 Statistical Sections
- Census Tracts
Municipal districts are the largest territorial unit within the city of Barcelona. They are referred to by a number and an official name.
The limits of the 10 districts have remained basically stable since 1984, but its subdivision has been modified in 2008. This new subdivision originated by the passing by the City Council of a new subdivision into 73 neighbourhoods. Such new subdivision was passed in accordance to article 21 of Barcelona’s Municipal Chart, and implies a reorganisation and modification of the organisation and functioning procedures of the districts, as well as an update of the subsequent subdivision into smaller territorial areas.
Thus, the territorial subdivision of the city effective since 2008 is as follows:
- 10 Municipal Districts
- 73 Neighbourhoods
- 233 Basic Statiscal Areas (Àrees Estadístiques Bàsiques, AEB)
- 1.061 Census tracts
The project whereby the neighbourhoods have officially been defined started in 2004, with the aim of establishing a division of the city into significant neighbourhoods from an urban and social point of view, as well as creating a territorial framework for the development of urban activities and the provision of facilities and municipal services
The criteria and conditions used to define the limits of the 73 neighbourhoods were the following
- The neighbourhoods must be within a given district, whose limits remain unchanged
- The neighbourhoods must have a historical identity and/or, be part of the citizens’ perception
- A neighbourhood should have an important degree of internal homogeneity and differentiation with respect to others in urban and social terms
- Homogeneous and well defined neighbourhoods should not be broken up, except when their dimensions make it necessary (for instance, Dreta de l’Eixample, with 90,000 inhabitants)
- A neighbourhood population should be within 5,000 and 50,000 citizens (with exceptions), in order to avoid large differences among them and, at the same time, guarantee their viability as spaces of living-together and provision of certain services and, urban facilities
- Neighbourhoods should have a similar territorial extension
- The definition of neighbourhoods should take into account already planned urban growth
In order to identify and fix the limits of the city neighbourhoods, the City Council created a working group of 22 members , with different experts (sociologists, lawyers, journalists, geographers, urban planners, economists and architects, among others) as well as representatives of political parties, managers from the districts and municipal officers.
At the same, a process of citizens’ participation was opened, so that the most representative city agents, particularly neighbours’ associations, could voice their views and demands.
Besides the 73 neighbourhoods were created (Montjuïc and Zona Franca), given their small population and large area. They thus receive a special treatment: when collecting statistical data they are included with an official neighbourhood (Montjuïc within Poble Sec, and Zona Franca within La Marina del Prat), but in territorial terms they can be split and regarded as different entities.
In order to identify the official names of the neighbourhoods, the criteria of the Institute of Catalan Studies were accepted. Each neighbourhood is thus identified by an official name, as well a number.
Statistical data for all 73 neighbourhoods is available since 2007.
The Basic Statistical Areas (AEB)
These are the intermediate level between neighbourhoods and census tracts. They have been defined following the criteria of the whole territorial division: each levels needs to be defined within the limits of the immediately superior one.
The particular delimitation of the AEBs is based on the proposal of the experts’ commission, which has been maintained with few exceptions.
The criteria followed to set the limits of the AEBs were:
- There should be a total number of between 200 and 250 AEBs
- They only have a statistical purpose. They are not equivalent of neighbourhoods, and should be useful for carrying out research, in the same line as the previous 248 Small Research Areas (Zones de Recerca Petites, ZRP)
- No block of houses should be divided among different AEBs
- They should have a minimum of 500 residents with voting rights
- They should be as uniform as possible in terms of population, urban planning and sociology
The AEBs are identified only by their correlative numbering, from 1 to 233.
Maintenance of census tracts is regulated by the criteria established in the Organic Law 5/1985 of Electoral Regime (article 23.2, on the distribution of voters in a municipality by census tracts). The division of the municipality in census tracts is modifiable due to population changes. Since 1991 census tracts have been modified as a result of reviews of the electoral census.
When the limits of the 73 neighbourhoods were decided, it was also ruled that such limits would imply the actualisation of the limits of the city’s census tracts. With such purpose a Commission of Statistical Zoning was established, with the following functions:
- Adapting the municipal databases to the limits of the 73 neighbourhoods and the AEBs
- Redefine the city’s census tracts in order to adapt them to the limits of the neighbourhoods and the AEBs
- Agree with the National Statistics Institute (INE) the new set of census tracts and obtain its approval
- Adapt the municipal databases to the new set of census tracts
The Commission was formed by different representatives of the cartography and population divisions of the Institut Municipal d’Informàtica (Municipal Institute of Information Technologies), Institut Municipal d’Hisenda (Tax Municipal Institute), Gabinet Técnic de Programació (Technical Programming Unit) and the Statistics Department of the municipality.
Another reason for re-defining the census tracts was the need of adapt them to the criteria of the electoral Law regarding the number of voters, as well as rationalizing the organization process of the elections. All changes in the census tracts were carried out according to the article 24.1 of the electoral Law, on the organisations that have responsibilities over the definition of census tracts.
The Official State Bulletin (BOE) dated April 11, 1997 includes the Resolution dated April 9, 1997 of the INE President and the General Director of Territorial Cooperation which provides the technical details to the municipalities about management and update of the population roll. It also includes the criteria on the limits of the census tracts and their revision within each municipality.
The criteria used in the redefinition of Barcelona’s census tracts have been to guarantee as much as possible their homogeneity and to keep their average population at approximately 1000 citizens with voting rights.
At the same time, some minor adjustments of the limits of certain districts, due to infrastructure projects or previous mistakes, were carried out.
The Mayor of the City submitted the proposals of new set of census tracts to the provincial Census Office in Barcelona, and ordered its implementation on December 31, 2008. This was ratified by the Plenary in its session of April, 2009, and was implemented during 2009, both for statistical and electoral purposes.
The 1,061 census tracts are named numerically, with a code that includes the district number and the census tract within each district. All census tracts start with number one in each district.
Barcelona and its metropolitan area
The Mancomunitat de Municipis (Municipalities Association, MMAMB), the Entitat del Medi Ambient (Metropolitan Environmental Agency, EMA) and the Entitat del Transport (Metropolitan Transport Agency, EMT) constitute the network of institutions that manage the services provided at a metropolitan level for the set of 36 municipalities that constitute the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona (AMB).
The MMAMB is formed by 31 municipalities of the area and was established in 1988 in order to share infrastructures and services. The Metropolitan Transport Agency was created in 1987 by 18 municipalities. In the same year the Metropolitan Environmental Agency was created by 33 municipalities, which is the set used by the Statistics Department to generate statistics of a metropolitan scope. The 33 municipalities are: Badalona, Badia del Vallès, Barcelona, Barberà del Vallès, Begues, Castellbisbal, Castelldefels, Cerdanyola del Vallès, Cornellà de Llobregat, Esplugues de Llobregat, Gavà, L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, Molins de Rei, Montcada I Reixac, Montgat, Pallejà, El Papiol, El Prat de Llobregat, Ripollet, Sant Adrià del Besòs, Sant Andreu de la Barca, Sant Boi de Llobregat, Sant Climent de Llobregat, Sant Cugat del Vallès, Sant Feliu de Llobregat, Sant Joan Despí, Sant Just Desvern, Sant Vicenç dels Horts, Santa Coloma de Cervelló, Santa Coloma de Gramanet, Tiana, Torrelles de Llobregat and Viladecans.
The Metropolitan Area of Barcelona includes 36 municipalities: those of the EMA plus Cervelló, Corbera de Llobregat and La Palma de Cervelló. On May 5, 2009 the Barcelona Metropolitan Area Consortium (CAMB) was established.
The Barcelona Metropolitan Region (RMB) of a larger territorial scope, was designed in the Territorial Plan of Catalonia, and includes the following areas (comarques) Alt Penedès, Baix Llobregat, Barcelonès, Garraf, Maresme, Vallès Occidental and Vallès Oriental.