2.4.5 Inequalities Related to the Habitat

Facts/messages: Social and ethnic groups tend to be distributed in territorially distinct patterns, and it is also common for them to have distinct patterns of migration and mobility. When these settlement and mobility patterns “penalize” disadvantaged socio-economic and ethnic groups, they become additional inequities that tend to compound the initial ones. This occurs in the case of isolated location (which implies difficulties in access to services), settlement in depressed, risky, or polluted areas (which expose people to economic crisis, natural catastrophes and environmental risks), settlement in areas that lack basic services (which adversely affects quality of life and exposes people to health risks), and residency in ghettos, especially on the outskirts of the metropoli (which promotes the reproduction of poverty and urban inequalities and undermines governance and citizenship in the metropoli). These habitat-related conditions also manifest themselves in the form of adverse mobility, such as forced migration (on account of natural catastrophes and local economic crises and even as a result of direct state intervention in the case of “urban cleansing” aimed at eradicating the poor segment of the population from high income areas which were very common in the 1970s and 1980s in Latin America) and the high expenditure of time and money in daily commutes. Moreover, decisions about the location of essential services are often guided by political criteria extraneous to the needs of the local population, and this can exacerbate their geographical disadvantages.

Methodology: Indicators should focus on showing the specificities of location of disadvantaged groups and the extent to which these factors overlap with adverse habitat conditions, whether these involve lack of services, exposure to environmental risks, distance from places of work or schools, and shortages of housing and infrastructure. For the first of these considerations, poverty maps can be used (percentage of the poor up to the level of the minor administrative division). Poverty maps seek to enhance understanding of the distribution of poverty and the geographic and biophysical conditions of where the poor live. In doing so, they help in designing interventions to reduce poverty. In recent years, econometric techniques have been developed and refined, notably by economists at The World Bank, that allow the estimation of poverty rates at much higher spatial resolution than generally available before. Many countries now prepare poverty maps as a standard output of their census operations, usually based not on the income concept of poverty, but on the Unsatisfied Basic Needs concept. There are also a number of international initiatives in this area, such as the Poverty Mapping Project of the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN). Composite indices such as dissimilarity measures (segregation of the poor) and other more sophisticated ones (see REDATAM Report no. 10) can be constructed for the case of metropolitan areas. For the second condition, it is possible to use indicators linked with the MDGs, related to sanitation, maps of environmental vulnerability, food security, estimates of housing shortages and cost indicators (in time and money) of daily commutes of disadvantaged groups (the poor, in particular). Access to markets and schools can also be analyzed, based on map distances.

Primary Sources:

  • Household surveys;
  • Population Censuses, School censuses, Censuses or surveys of health establishments, and transportation surveys;
  • Surveys of origin-destination, where available. The poverty maps are made in almost all countries using standardized procedures and with the support of the World Bank.

Secondary Sources:

  • CIESIN and the World Bank. Websites offer many resources for poverty mapping;
  • Bingman, D. and H. Fofack (2000). Geographic targeting for poverty alleviation: methodology and applications. Washington DC, World Bank Regional and Sectoral Studies;
  • Bedi, T.; A. Coudouel and K. Simler (2007). More than a pretty picture: using poverty maps to better design policies and interventions. Washington DC, World Bank;
  • The World Food Programme has promoted the preparation of vulnerability maps for food security purposes;
  • DevInfo and REDATAM. For more information see section 5 of Part 1;
  • UNU/WIDER: Ravi Kanbur and Anthony Venables (2004). Spatial Inequality and Development. UNU/WIDER Studies in Development Economics. The issue of spatial inequality was the object of this project at the United Nations University in Helsinki (UNU/WIDER).