Life Between the City and the Village: Comparative Analysis of Service Access in Indian Urban Slums
18 Pages Posted: 5 Sep 2019 Last revised: 10 Jun 2020
Date Written: September 2, 2019
The emergence of India as an urbanized nation is one of the most significant socioeconomic and political processes of the 21st century. An essential feature of India’s urbanization has been the growth and persistence of informal settlements (slums) in its fast-developing cities. Whether living conditions in Indian urban slums constitute a path to human development or a poverty trap is therefore an issue of vital importance. Here, we characterize census data using the framework of urban scaling to systematically characterize the relative properties of Indian urban slums, focusing on attributes of neighbourhoods such as access to basic services like water, sanitation, and electrical power. We find that slums in larger cities offer systematically higher levels of service access than those in smaller cities. Perhaps as expected, we also find consistent underperformance in service access in slums in comparison with non-slum neighbourhoods in the same cities. However, urban slums, on average, offer greater access to services than neighbourhoods in rural areas. This situation, which we quantify systematically, may help explain why Indian larger cities have remained attractive to rural populations in terms of living standards, beyond the need for an economic income premium.
Keywords: Human Development, Informal Settlements, Poverty, India, Infrastructure, Scaling
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