By Andrew Nusca
Posting in Architecture
Slums may be squalid, but they're full of people trying to grab the next rung. Conditions in the countryside? Much worse.
Slums -- those impoverished, overcrowded and often filthy urban districts -- may be bad news for your upward mobility, but you're almost certainly better off than living in the country.
That's according to Charles Kenny, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development and author of Getting Better, who writes in the September issue of Foreign Policy that urbanization is economic progress.
The reason so many people endure the slums? Because countryside conditions are worse.
Start with the simple reason that most people leave the countryside: money. Moving to cities makes economic sense -- rich countries are urbanized countries, and rich people are predominantly town and city dwellers. Just 600 cities worldwide account for 60 percent of global economic output, according to the McKinsey Global Institute. Slum dwellers may be at the bottom of the urban heap, but most are better off than their rural counterparts. Although about half the world's population is urban, only a quarter of those living on less than a dollar a day live in urban areas. In Brazil, for example, where the word "poor" conjures images of both Rio's vertiginous favelas and indigenous Amazonian tribes living in rural privation, only 5 percent of the urban population is classified as extremely poor, compared with 25 percent of those living in rural areas.
If you're reading this while sitting in a developed country, this dynamic may be harder to understand -- the "country house" certainly has wealthy overtones; a return to one's roots, albeit with a thoroughly padded bank account.
Though slums have improved markedly since the Victorian era, they're still scorned by the public, which frequently calls for them to be cleared. ("Not in my backyard," on a much bigger scale.) Kenny says they shouldn't be. Instead, slums should be supported with services. Because, scrutinizing the data, these people aren't undesirable at all -- they're trying to make money just like the wealthier folks working in the downtown business district.
Photo: ND Strupler/Flickr
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Aug 27, 2012
My paternal Grandfather came to the US at age 14 looking for a better life. He was a European country dweller literally starving to death. On arrival he worked building railroads and lived in a packing crate. By 1900 he saved enough to bring over his younger brother. By todays standards we call this child abuse or child labor. But would it have been better if they starved in rural Europe? Sounds hard to believe, with Europe, immigration, etc. but true.The developing world today is just like the US then, only the immigration is internal. As long as Earth is able to sustain all this development we should all be OK. If it is not, both the rich and poor are doomed.
If one is trying to make money, then yes, you're better off in a Slum. But the quality of live in terms of health, stress, disease, and even sustenance have always and will always be better in the countryside.
Rural US and Canada can be rough, but it is not as bad as the problems in other nations. So large parts of the Midwest and Canada lack adequate cell phone coverage, broadband internet or a Starbucks on every corner, so what. Country living in large parts of the US and Canada is not all that oppressive. For many people who reject the material world of modern living the simplicity of rural life is a vanishing treasure. The title is a bit broad for the scope of the article. Which seems to be focused on third world nations. In a third world nation are you better off in a slum? might have been more accurate. I would take living in the worst parts of rural US against living in the worst neighborhoods in Chicago any day. And please, no cries of racism. It is an observation based on living conditions alone. The simple fact is gun is needed for self protection in one place and can be used to hunt food in the other must be kept in mind.
People who live in industrialized countries have a romanticized view of rural living in undeveloped countries. The list of harsh realities is long. Lack of potable water, inadequate dietary protein, constant exposure to parasite borne diseases, lack of access to the most basic medical care, lack of access to education, and the simple drudgery of agriculture without machines, pesticides & offsite water for irrigation is just a start.
I suspect there is another reason for the difference in the percentage of those in poverty between urban and rural populations. The numbers of those in poverty are offset by the much larger number of people in urban areas that are above the poverty line. There would be many less affluent people in rural areas due to the stated benefit of more opportunities that exist in urban areas. It takes education and training to get the jobs that lead to more income. Even with the greater number of better opportunities that exist in urban areas, do those in poverty qualify for jobs that allow them to cross the poverty line? Or, do they continue to live in squalid conditions while those in rural areas have access to a better quality of life and community despite their poverty?
I come from THE financial capitol city of India which also boasts, probably the largest hutment / slum in the world. The reason the residents of these slums reside there is seeking money at all costs and hardships. Almost 100 % of them have left penury and starvation conditions behind in their villages and are willing to accept absolutely the worst quality of life possible. But if one were to take the view of late Mr Dhirubhai Ambani, the doyen of the largest Indian corporation, Reliance Industries, at the end of the day one needs only 2 square meals and shelter over one's head. One has to set their priorities right and their own definition of WEALTH !
according to an old anthropology professor, wealth is the amount of leisure time after that necessary to provide for basic necessities and has nothing to do with $$. Many of those impoverished country dwellers live a wholesome happy life with more liesure time for enriching activities than those in the rat-race. Even the 'work' time is generally more enjoyable and fulfilling. I'm sure many would rather be growing crops in the fields than standing in a food line. The problem comes when people settle and try to live in an area that can not support them. Organizations exasperate the problem by sending in 'emergency aid' thereby encouraging the people to continue to try to live there. These people become totally dependant on the support of others and lose the ability to do for themselves. IMHO
breeding grounds for pestilence, due in large part to poor sanitation, poor dietary options, and high stress situations. At least in the countryside, the chances of disease are lessened by lack of over-crowding, availability of better quality food and sanitation. The only drawbacks I foresee is the lack of variety of food and the greater travel distances required. But the more relaxed conditions in rural areas reduces the health concerns of many people. Many medical tests that require high technology (MRI, CAT scans, etc.) are needed for those health concerns CAUSED by those high stress situations. While useful, they are much less needed in rural areas.
I agree whole heartedly HI. Having been "around the world" in the US MIlitary, I have seen some seriously sad living conditions in many of these "3rd World Countries". I was born & raised in a medium sized city ( State Capitol) and lived in a "neighborhood". Upon retiring I moved "to the country" where my nearest neighbor is a half mile away. I wouldnt trade it for anything ! And I certainly have no "padded bank account". LIke so many of my friends say, "It's not much, but it's mine".
Country or slum, these places, like India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the multitude of surrounding "nations" are now, and have been a breeding ground for all nature of disease, pestilence and terrorism. The hope is that Iran's development of nuclear capability coupled with that of India and Pakistan will result in an atomic cleansing of the Middle East. Then the rest of the world can get on with the business of creating a better, brighter and healthier future.
Apparently, to the writer of the original article, wealth means money--Scrooge McDuck rolling around in his gold coins.