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Urban Poverty: An Overview


Urban Poverty: A Global View. World Bank, Judy L. Baker


Urban poverty chapter of the PRSP Sourcebook. World Bank, Deniz Baharoglu and Christine Kessides.


Analyzing Urban Poverty: A Summary of Methods and Approaches. World Bank. Judy L. Baker and Nina Schuler.


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Urban poverty is a multidimensional phenomenon. The urban poor live with many deprivations. Their daily challenges may include:
  • limited access to employment opportunities and income,
  • inadequate and insecure housing and services,
  • violent and unhealthy environments,
  • little or no social protection mechanisms, and
  • limited access to adequate health and education opportunities.

But urban poverty is not just a collection of characteristics, it is also a dynamic condition of vulnerability or susceptibility to risks. In order to provide a richer understanding of urban poverty, this site presents these two analytical frameworks (i) a dynamic framework of poverty (vulnerability and asset ownership) and (ii) the multiple characteristics of poverty and its cumulative impacts.


Kids - Alexandria, South AfricaFor the first time in history more than half the world’s people live in cities. Over 90 percent of urban growth is occurring in the developing world, adding an estimated 70 million new residents to urban areas each year. During the next two decades, the urban population of the world’s two poorest regions—South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa—is expected to double.


The urban growth is attributed to both natural population growth, and rural to urban migration. Urbanization contributes to sustained economic growth which is critical to poverty reduction. The economies of scale and agglomeration in cities attract investors and entrepreneurs which is good for overall economic growth. Cities also provide opportunities for many, particularly the poor who are attracted by greater job prospects, the availability of services, and for some, an escape from constraining social and cultural traditions in rural villages. Yet city life can also present conditions of overcrowded living, congestion, unemployment, lack of social and community networks, stark inequalities, and crippling social problems such as crime and violence.


Many of those who migrate will benefit from the opportunities in urban areas, while others, often those with low skill levels, may be left behind and find themselves struggling with the day to day challenges of city life. Many of the problems of urban poverty are rooted in a complexity of resource and capacity constraints, inadequate Government policies at both the central and local level, and a lack of planning for urban growth and management. Given the high growth projections for most cities in developing countries, the challenges of urban poverty and more broadly of city management will only worsen in many places if not addressed more aggressively.

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