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Urban Development & Spatial Economics

Sustainable Rural and Urban Development Research

Program Coordinator: Uwe Deichmann

This work program has two main components:

1.   Problems related to rapid urban growth in developing countries
2.   Contribution to economic growth from dynamically growing cities in regional systems

Problems related to rapid urban growth in developing countries

Urban development and issues related to slums
An estimated one-third of all urban residents live in informal settlements or slums—the vast majority in developing countries.  Conditions in such areas vary widely from dismal, temporary shelter in squatter settlements to relatively well-constructed, informal housing that may persist for many decades. Common characteristics include uncertain tenure status, poor basic services such as water and sanitation, low-grade construction and overcrowded living conditions. Apart from physical deprivation, slum dwellers also often face more subtle disadvantages such as poor labor market integration and the social stigma attached to an inferior residential location. With continuing rapid growth of urban areas, improving the life of slum dwellers is a high priority for national and city governments and the international community.

DECRG research in this area focuses on access to public services, housing market dynamics and their link to employment opportunities, and ways to improve the fiscal sustainability of urban service provision. Closely related are impact evaluations of urban upgrading projects, titling, and other pro-poor policies for improving the life of slum dwellers. Recent publications.

Contribution to economic growth from dynamically growing cities in regional systems

City systems, regional economic development and the role of infrastructure
There is considerable interest among national and regional policy makers in better understanding the determinants of the location and geographic concentration of economic activity. How do spatial patterns of production emerge in different sectors and what may policy be able to do to influence these dynamics? Major questions are the role of market access, benefits at the industry level from intra-industry localization economies, and benefits at the regional level from inter-industry urbanization economies.

DECRG research has focused on empirically investigating the role of cities in providing a dynamic environment for regional growth and on the effectiveness of policies to promote development in lagging regions, such as infrastructure investments and secondary city strategies. These activities are closely linked with the concepts of the new economic geography and often utilize georeferenced data and spatial analytic techniques. Recent publications.

GIS Spatial Analysis Unit

An increasing number of research activities in the Sustainable Rural and Urban Development team—as well as in other DECRG teams and other units in the Bank—involve the compilation, analysis and dissemination of spatially referenced information. The spatial analysis team uses geographic information systems and spatial analytical techniques to support research and operational activities in areas as diverse as household survey analysis, poverty mapping, hazard risk identification, rural investment climate assessments, natural resource management and climate change, and transport sector analysis.

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