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The seven myths of ‘slums’

Adam Parsons
08 December 2010


Much may be written about informal settlements in academic books and journals, but the depiction of slums in popular movies and literature often serves to reinforce a number of long-held prejudices against the urban poor. This report sets out to unravel some of these core myths, and aims to give a general perspective on a range of key issues related to 'slums' – including the impact of economic globalisation, the role of national governments, the significance of the informal sector of employment, the question of international aid, and the (little mentioned) controversy surrounding global slum data and development targets.

Although the gritty issue of slums may not register high on many people’s concerns in the richest countries, it has critical implications for the future direction of world development. After several decades of relying on the market as a cure-all for the ills of the twenty-first century, the increasing number of urban residents living in slums is sufficient evidence that the ‘growth-first’ strategy for development isn’t sustainable. In its overall message, this report argues that our only choice is to consider alternative goals and more holistic models for development that prioritise social objectives ahead of economic growth and corporate profit, with a fairer sharing of resources on the national and global level.

Link to full report [pdf]: The Seven Myths of 'Slums' - Challenging Popular Prejudices About the World's Urban Poor


A summary of the seven myths

Myth 1: There are too many people

Myth 2: The poor are to blame

Myth 3: Slums are places of crime, violence and social degradation

Myth 4: Slums are an inevitable stage of development

Myth 5: The free market can end slums

Myth 6: International aid is the answer

Myth 7: There will always be slums


Further resources:

‘Megaslumming’ microsite

The Future of Urban Shantytowns: talk given at Amnesty International in London - 24th February 2010