Studying the Real 'Slums' in Bangalore, Patna and Jaipur (2016-2017)


There is a relative paucity of knowledge about urban poverty in developing countries. At the same time that cities in the developing world are loci of great economic dynamism, they are also becoming the centers of large inequalities in educational level and quality, health outcomes, lifestyles and housing conditions.

“Nowhere is inequality more in your face than in India,” noted an article in the New York Times. Right beside luxury-brand stores and glass-walled office towers, there are people living in squalid settlements and close-packed slums. Relatively little is known about processes of settlement; trajectories over time; and social, political and economic dynamics in slums.

Planners in India distinguish between declared and undeclared slums, but events have overtaken these gross distinctions, resulting in the emergence of five and perhaps six distinct types of slums. How slum settlements differ at a point of time is poorly understood. How their trajectories vary over time is almost completely unknown. Gaps in knowledge result in growing urban decay, segmented housing markets, proliferating squalor, corruption and wasteful expenditure and rising inequalities in service provision.

Project Description

Associated with these concerns, this project has three objectives: 1) to refine and extend a satellite-image-based methodology for identifying, mapping, categorizing and tracking slum settlements through time and in real time; 2) to understand if and how individual slum settlements upgrade over time; 3) to examine how social networks and distributive politics affect slum trajectories by impacting the security of property rights and access to local public goods, and affecting prospects for equitable social and economic development.

The study will provide important insights into the factors that condition the capacity of the urban poor to achieve formal recognition of slums, private property rights and better public services.

Building on previous work, this project team has expanded data collection from one city to three cities with widely ranging characteristics. The team wrote a paper on the range of conditions across Indian slums and the potential for social mobility in these communities, for submission to the journal World Development.

Anticipated Outcomes

The project team will produce a series of reports on diverse themes, including processes of slum recognition and the grant of property titles; trajectories over time of households and neighborhoods; leadership roles; oral histories and photo narratives. The reports will build on the data collected in Bangalore, India, over the past three years, and new data that will be collected in Patna and Jaipur, India.


Summer 2016 – Spring 2017

Team Outcomes to Date

Journal article submitted


Sarah Zimmermann ’18

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See earlier related team, Studying the Real 'Slums' in Bangalore (2015-2016).

Faculty/Staff Team Members

Anirudh Krishna, Sanford School of Public Policy*
Erik Wibbels, Trinity - Political Science*

Graduate Team Members

Emily Rains, Sanford School, PhD in Public Policy
Jeremy Spater, PhD in Political Science

Undergraduate Team Members

Kritika Kailash, Public Policy Studies (AB)
Venkat Subramaniam, Biology (BS), Computer Science (AB2)
Yiyun (Nancy) Zhu, Computer Science (AB)
Sarah Zimmermann, Statistical Science (AB)

Community Team Members

Multiple Contributors, Jana Urban Foundation

* denotes team leader