Secondary Towns and Poverty Reduction: Refocusing the Urbanization Agenda

26 Pages Posted: 26 Mar 2017

See all articles by Luc Christiaensen

Luc Christiaensen

World Bank

Ravi Kanbur

Cornell University; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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This review is framed around the exploration of a central hypothesis: A shift in public investment towards secondary towns from big cities will improve poverty reduction performance. Of course the hypothesis raises many questions. What exactly is the dichotomy of secondary towns versus big cities? What is the evidence for the contribution of secondary towns versus cities to poverty reduction? What are the economic mechanisms for such a differential contribution and how does policy interact with them? We find preliminary evidence and arguments in support of our hypothesis, but the impacts of policy on poverty are quite complex even in simple settings, and the question of secondary towns and poverty reduction is an open area for research and policy analysis.

Keywords: secondary towns, poverty reduction, mega cities, urbanization, rural-urban migration, Zipf's Law

JEL Classification: I32, J61, O18, R12, R23

Suggested Citation

Christiaensen, Luc and Kanbur, Ravi, Secondary Towns and Poverty Reduction: Refocusing the Urbanization Agenda. IZA Discussion Paper No. 10637. Available at SSRN:

Luc Christiaensen (Contact Author)

World Bank ( email )

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Ravi Kanbur

Cornell University ( email )

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607-255-7966 (Phone)
607-255-9984 (Fax)


Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

United Kingdom

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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Bonn, D-53072

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