cities


Urban slums: Poverty traps or stepping stones?

Millions of people around the world live in urban slums. Relative to the life left behind in rural areas, the net consequences of growing up in these conditions on a person’s education and skills later in life are determined by the country’s stage of development and its policies for access and quality of education. This column uses data from Brazil to explore this relationship, highlighting that while slums in Brazil may have historically been a stepping stone for the country’s human capital formation, by 2010 they had transformed into hindrances. The lessons for developing countries that are still rural as well as for developed countries that are receiving low-skill immigrants are also discussed.

Urban political structures and the historical roots of wealth inequality

The evolution of wealth inequality is driven in part by past political structures. This column presents a case study from Germany, focusing on the history of the southern city-state, Nördlingen. The results of the study highlight how past political elites were able to exploit extreme moments of crisis, such as wars and epidemics, to enrich themselves, driving up wealth inequality. In fact, the extent to which a region had an oligarchic political structure transpires to be a clear driver of wealth inequality trends, today as in the past.