It doesn’t seem that anyone would WANT to live in a slum. But that is not necessarily true, according to Charles Kenny of Foreign Policy. In fact, for many of the world’s poor, a slum can offer opportunities and services not available in rural areas.
Across the world today, thanks to vaccines and underground sewage systems, average life expectancies in big cities are considerably higher than those in the countryside; in sub-Saharan Africa, cities with a population over 1 million have had infant mortality rates one-third lower than those in rural areas. In fact, most of today’s urban population growth comes not from waves of villagers moving to the city, but city folks having kids and living longer.
In part, better quality of life is because of better access to services. Data from surveys across the developing world suggest that poor households in urban areas are more than twice as likely to have piped water as those in rural areas, and they’re nearly four times more likely to have a flush toilet. In India, very poor urban women are about as likely to get prenatal care as the non-poor in rural areas. And in 70 percent of countries surveyed by MIT economists Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, school enrollment for girls ages 7 to 12 is higher among the urban poor than the rural poor.
In no way does this suggest that we should simply shrug our shoulders and say, “Slums are good enough.” However, it does suggest that there are economic footholds in urban areas that can be built upon – footholds that appear to be lacking in many rural areas.
Read Charles Kenny’s ‘In Praise of Slums’ here.
This article is cross-posted at PovertyCure.org.