Ways to Improve inner City Slum Areas

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Countries around the world struggle with slum areas and all the problems associated with these areas. Not only are conditions often inhumane for the people living there, but these areas also tend to generate crime and may thus have a bad influence on surrounding areas. Countries therefore have two good reasons to attempt to improve these areas. First, by improving the slum areas, people improve their life quality and the country fulfill some moral obligation to attempt to improve the life quality of those who are faring poorly in society. But almost as important is the influence it can have on the area as a whole. By raising one area out of slum, surrounding areas are affected positively by suffering from less crime and possibly seeing higher demand.

Both research and empirical observations seem to highlight a few issues that should be dealt with to lift areas out of poor conditions. The effect of these can primarily be divided in short term and long term effects.

First, by improving the sanitation and nutrition in an area, the quality of life can be lifted relatively quickly. Providing clean water and a functioning sewer system, for example, reduces negative health effects within slum areas and helps people towards a better life. Helping people – for example through education or subsides – to eat a more healthy diet, has similar effects with major improvements in the health among people living in slum areas. 

Reducing negative health effects by raising the quality of life may have some long term effects. Education, however, seems to be the primary strategy to improve a slum area in the long term.

Much research has shown that low education correlates strongly with poverty. Children inherit poverty this way, moreover, since research also shows that the average education level of parents and children also correlates strongly. Raising the percentage of kids who completes high school can therefore have a major impact on an area. 

Raising the amount of children living in slum areas who attend high school has been a major issue, for example, in Brazil. Since around 2000, the Brazilian government has focused heavily on improving the education of children in slum areas by paying families when their children goes to school and by paying schools when they succeed at keeping the children there. The effects of this has been extremely positive with vast economic benefits. Education appears to also lead to fewer child births per woman, which adds to the effect since adults thereby have more money per child.  

The positive effects of giving education to children does not stop there, however, since the children of these people are likely to mirror their parents more than their grandparents in terms of education.


Focus on primary healthcare, clean water and sanitation in slum areas. OneWorld South Asia. 20 November 2010

Poverty in Brazil. 

More about this author: Thomas E. Foss

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