Studying the Real 'Slums' in Bangalore (2015-2016)

There are one billion people living in slums worldwide, and slums are rapidly expanding across the developing world. Yet slums are largely ignored by policymakers, by the majority of literature on development and by other city residents.

While the UN definition of a slum refers to poor sanitation and squalid living conditions, the reality on the ground is much more complex. Slums differ in terms of their physical features, history and legal status.

This project built on a previous Bass Connections project in Bangalore, India. The team’s objectives were to refine a satellite-based methodology for identifying slums and slum types and to understand how political networks and distributive politics impact the security of property rights, access to public services and human well-being in slums.

Team members traveled to Bangalore in Summer 2015. They went into slums and interviewed people, conducting thousands of surveys in an attempt to identify formal and informal community leaders. The goal was to analyze the relationship between local leadership density and government services. The research will be used to better identify the political network that controls how government goods and services are distributed in the slums of Bangalore.

The team identified and categorized “types” of slums based on field observations, satellite images and survey data. Back on campus, team members proceeded with their research and took part in a conference at Duke, where they presented two papers.


Summer 2015 – Spring 2016

Team Outputs

A Proposal for Semi-automatic Identification and Classification of Urban Slum Settlements in a Typology, with an Accompanying Study of Housing Markets in Slums. Anirudh Krishna, Eric Wibbels. Omidyar Network, 2016. $231,481.

Some Are Slummier Than Others: Proposing a Typology of Slums and the Factors that Matter (paper by Saumya Jain, Anirudh Krishna, Emily Rains, Jeremy Spater, and  Erik Wibbels) (abstract | paper) (presented by Emily Rains and Jeremy Spater at the Workshop on Urban Poverty in Developing Countries, May 19, 2016)

Satellites, Slums and Social Networks: Evidence on the Origins and Consequences of Property Rights from 157 Slums in Bangalore (paper by Erik Wibbels, Anirudh Krishna, and M.S. Sriram) (abstract | paper) (presented by Erik Wibbels at the Workshop on Urban Poverty in Developing Countries, May 19, 2016)

The Real ‘Slums’ of Bangalore (team poster)

EHDx Talks (presentation by Nikita Gawande and Saumya Jain at the Nasher Museum of Art, April 13, 2016)

Analyzing the Development of Social Capital in the Slums of Bangalore (Holsti Prize-winning honors thesis by Tara Bansal, Public Policy)


Duke Duets: Bass Connections

Interdisciplinary Education & Reseach: Tara Bansal

This Team in the News

Two Bass Connections Students Win the Duke Libraries Ole R. Holsti Prize

Congratulations to Our 2017 Library Writing and Research Award Winners!

Tara Bansal: Thinking About How Things Can Be

Slums’ Uniqueness May Be Key to Their Development

Tara Bansal '17: Making a Difference Beyond Duke

Six Students on Their Community-Engaged Research, from Bangalore to Durham

From Autism to Slums, Duke Students Tackle Challenges in Human Development

Duke Awards Distinguished Professorships, Inducts New Bass Society Members

Junior Tara Bansal Blends Passion and Policy to Empower Women

Bass Connections Students Report on Education Research

Saumya Jain, Computer Science ’18

EHD Bass Connections: Crossing the Disciplines to Enact Change

Tara Bansal Wins #PolicyInAction Contest

The Story Behind the Photo: Tara Bansal

Anirudh Krishna: How Do You Define a Slum?

There isn’t a lot of research on people who are living in slums today. [Our team’s work] is the most comprehensive slum literature in the last decade. We recognize that slums exist all over the world and we want our research to be applicable. —Tara Bansal

This project team was originally part of the Education & Human Development theme of Bass Connections, which ended in 2022. See related teams, Studying the Real 'Slums' in Bangalore, Patna and Jaipur (2016-2017) and Where Are the Real 'Slums' in Bangalore? (2014-2015).

Team Leaders

  • Anirudh Krishna, Sanford School of Public Policy
  • Erik Wibbels, Arts & Sciences-Political Science

/graduate Team Members

  • Emily Rains, Public Policy Studies-PHD, Political Science-AM
  • Jeremy Spater, Political Science-PHD
  • Saad Usmani, Economics-AM

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Tara Bansal, Public Policy Studies (AB), Global Health (AB2)
  • Nikita Gawande, Economics (BS), Public Policy Studies (AB2)
  • Saumya Jain, Computer Science (BS)

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Indian Institute of Management
  • Jana Urban Foundation