Social Geography: What To Study, Auxiliary Sciences, Examples

The g social eografĂ­a is a branch of geography that pursues the study of social structures, their relationship with the environment and how the relationships between individuals in the society in question develop. There are several definitions and all agree on the interest in observing human population groups.

In this way, it is studied from the reason why the main cities and civilizations have been created near the water masses, to urban development serving the inhabitants. It is a multidisciplinary science, which means that it is helped by other disciplines to carry out its mission.

Social geography

These complementary disciplines range from statistics to hydrology, through mathematics and sociology. The roots of social geography in the modern era go back to the 20s of the 20th century, when the way of life in rural areas, as well as life in urban centers, began to be studied.

At present, new technologies have begun to be used to make more complete studies, and there are even projects that use social networks to complete the data.

Object of study

Given the broad scope of its study field and its methodology, there are different definitions of this discipline. However, some points can be found where all experts agree when talking about it.

The first is that social geography focuses its work on social structures created by human beings. Among other issues, it studies the interdependence with the territories in which they have been established, so it also needs to resort to some branches of physical geography.

For this matter , both the characteristics of the territory and the environment and the different social relationships are part of a whole that explains the human being as such. One of the best known scholars, Horacio Capel, defined social geography by stating that it is the “study of culture and of man’s adjustments to nature.”

By focusing on people and not simply on landforms in isolation, scientists in this discipline study different population groups, grouping them by their social, gender, ethnic, or historical similarities.

History of the discipline

The beginning of modern social geography is usually placed in the investigations carried out by two different scientific currents in the 20s of the last century. One was dedicated to studying how people lived in rural areas; the other did the same in urban areas.

The former belonged to the so-called French school and placed special emphasis on the relationship between the conditions of the territory and the social structure created in it. Their work analyzed how the climate, natural resources or the environment affected the lives of the people in the area.

The so-called Chicago School of Sociology was the one that chose to study urban life. At first it was a group quite influenced by social Darwinism and they established a parallelism between the human population and the botanical communities.

For these social scientists, the city distinguished various areas in which human beings were grouped, depending on factors such as social class or ethnicity. The distribution of the best areas ended up being made by the income of each group.

New objects of interest in social geography

From the 60s and 70s, with the emergence in many countries of the world of movements in pursuit of equality, social geography found new objects of study that last until today.

Thus, the discipline began to study the welfare of different human groups, especially those traditionally aggrieved, such as homosexuals or women.

Along with these so-called radical geographers, another trend also appeared that declared itself more humanistic. This oriented his work towards the analysis of human subjectivity in the use of space.

New technologies applied to social geography

As has happened in the rest of the scientific and analytical fields, new technologies have been incorporated into social geography.

Mainly, the so-called Geographic Information Systems (GIS) have started to be used, which function as sources of data about the human being and its geography.

Auxiliary Sciences

One of the characteristics of social science in general is that they need to use tools from other sciences to complete their studies. Social geography is no exception and relies on auxiliary sciences such as the following:


Anthropology is closely linked to social geography, sharing part of the object of study. As a science, it is dedicated to the study of all aspects of the human being: from its biological characteristics to its social ones.


Like the previous one, it shares features with social geography. In this case, the nexus between both disciplines is found in the geographical study of societies.


One of the basic auxiliary sciences for this type of geography. Produce statistics on different aspects of society.


Economics, especially its branch of economic geography, plays an important role in social studies. It is very useful to analyze the distribution of resources and how this distribution affects each human community.

Political Sciences

Politics being one of the most intrinsic activities of the human being, its contribution is fundamental for social geography. The study of the axes of power is called sociopolitical.


Without knowing history it is impossible to understand the present. For this reason, it is a tool without which no social science could develop.

Climatology and hydrology

Although it may not seem so at first glance, these are disciplines that are very helpful to the social sciences. Not in vain, any human community has sought to establish itself in places where there is water and a suitable climate.


Statistics provides social geography with the methodological tools to be able to produce more accurate studies quantitatively.

Other auxiliary sciences

In addition to all the above, this branch of geography is also assisted with other subjects such as urban planning, mathematics, social communication, and even theology.

Real examples of studied phenomena

The theory of concentric zones of urban growth

This work by Burgess, one of the pioneers of social geography, tried to create a perfect city design for its inhabitants and its economy.

Thus, he proposed that the city be built by forming five concentric rings, each with a function. The center would be for businesses and the outer rings for the population divided by income.

Social justice and the city

Urbanism and social inequality was the name of a book published by David Harvey, a British geographer. It was a study of urban areas and their economy; took special interest in how ghettos were formed.

Missing Maps Project

It is one of the most modern projects and uses social networks for its development. You are trying to make a map of places where natural disasters have occurred and for which little information exists.

Geography of gender in Latin America

It is a study on the situation of women in Latin America. The first results have focused on Argentina and Brazil.


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  7. Dogan, Mattei. The Hybridization of Social Science Knowledge. Recovered from
  8. Paul Knox, Steven Pinch. Urban Social Geography: An Introduction. Recovered from

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