​​ external image bol_novdic09_cadenas1.jpg external image 11.6.09+Urban+Slum.jpgRural vs. Urban Poverty

Introduction (by Wegahta)

Poverty affects many people in urban and rural Latin America alike. As Jonathan Haughton and Shahidur R. Khandker state in their Handbook on Poverty and Inequality, poverty is "pronounced deprivation in well-being". They also state that poverty may be related to a specific type of consumption such as housing, food or money. (Haughton and Khandker, 2009) Urban poverty is a multi-scale reality that is identified with deprivations while rural poverty is the lack of needs and social well-being of people living in rural areas and also the factors of rural society, rural economy and political systems that contribute to the destitution of the area. The urban poor live with various daily challenges that might include but are not limited to; limited access to employment opportunities and income, insubstantial and insecure housing and services, violent and unhealthy environments, little or no social protection components, and limited access to adequate health and education opportunities while the rural poor face daily challenges like hunger, drought, limited access to some sort of health care, no means of transportation and so on. A major cause of poverty in Latin America is uneven distribution of wealth. Income in Latin America is highly concentrated, making the region one of the most unequal in the world (findarticles.com, 2010). Political instability, internal conflict and bad government have also led to unstable short-term foreign investment that ceases to exist before the desired changes are achieved (world-poverty.org, 2010). There are over half a billion people living in the Latin America. Of these, 132 million live on less than $2 a day, and 57 million live on less than $1 a day (library.thinkquest.org, 2010). As Latin America became more urbanized, so did the poor. Half of the region’s poor population lives in the cities which made it harder for policy makers to handle the issue of poverty in the region. Poverty as we knew of it does not only mainly affect the rural population anymore but also the well developed urban areas of Latin America as well.

Demographic Population (by Emi)

The Rural Poor

The vast majority of the rural poor tend to rely heavily on the agricultural sector for income and occupation. The rural poor in Latin America include:

The Indigenous communities (33%)
Shepherds and smallholder farmers (27%)
Landless and subsistence farmers
Rural wage workers
Artisanal fishermen
(ifad.org, 2002)

There are two main types of rural poverty in Latin America—structural and transitory. Structural poverty can be found mainly in Indigenous communities, ethnic minorities, and rural women. Those affected by this type of poverty typically have few or no productive assets, a lack of schooling or education, few work skills, and limited knowledge about production. Transitory poverty affects the farming families and rural households that have limited or no access to land, and are vulnerable to changes implemented by structural reform, economic changes, and political and social instability. Sudden economic policy changes can cause drops in earnings and deteriorated living conditions for both farming and non-farming communities (ifad.org, 2002).

Poverty in Latin America is “often perceived as an urban phenomenon, since 70 per cent of the population is urban, and extensive urban slums are highly visible. But poverty affects a much higher
Rural farm in Costa Rica
Rural farm in Costa Rica
proportion of the region’s rural population” (ruralpovertyportal.org, 2010). In fact, poverty in Latin America is heavily concentrated in rural areas as opposed to urban areas; in Mexico. Central America, and the Andean countries, more than 60% of impoverished individuals live in rural areas (jstor.org, 2000). Rural poverty in the region is caused mainly by the lack of access to productive land and inadequate access to information and assets for smallholder farmers. Furthermore, individuals in rural areas suffer from poverty as they face geographic isolation from the amenities in urban centers as well as limited public investment in education, housing, and health services. Unfortunately, recent government market oriented policies have led to a decrease in investments in rural areas, which ultimately increases the rural poverty in the region (ruralpovertyportal.org, 2010). Despite the economic progress in Latin America, a large inequality still exists in the distribution of wealth and income. The poorest 20% of the population receive only 3% of all income while the wealthiest 20% receive 60% (ifad.org, 2002). Although many individuals in Latin America are forced to endure poverty, it is the rural women that are amongst the poorest of the poor. They are forced to endure the consequences of internal conflicts, migration of men both within and out of the country, as well as structural adjustments (ruralpovertyportal.org, 2010).

The Indigenous Poor (by Emi)

Indigenous peoples make up the largest group (approximately one third) of all rural poor individuals in the region of Latin America. There are more than two hundred Indigenous ethnic groups in the Caribbean and Latin American region, including those of African descent (ifad.org, 2002). According to the World Bank Organization, the highest percentages of Indigenous peoples essentially reside in five countries in Latin America. These countries are Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico,
Indigenous woman of Latin America
Indigenous woman of Latin America
and Peru (worldbank.org, 2010).

There are large percentages of Indigenous peoples in these countries that predominantly live in rural areas. In fact, according to a study, “The poorest of the poor in South America are indigenous peasant communities in remote mountain areas in Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador. The harsh Andean environment is home to 35 per cent of the poorest people in the region, and three out of four rural people in the Andes live under the poverty line” (ruralpovertyportal.org, 2010). In Bolivia and Peru, although there has been an increase of Indigenous migration to urban centers and cities, the majority of Indigenous peoples live in the rural areas like in the Amazon region according to a 2002 survey (worldbank.org, 2010). It is the same case with Ecuador, as recent studies have shown that the rural Indigenous population is significantly higher than the urban. In fact, 82% of the rural population is Indigenous as compared to a mere 18% of the urban population (INEC Censo, 2001). Mexico has the largest population of Indigenous peoples, but the least amount when compared to the rest of its general population. According to a study, approximately 95% of the Indigenous population lives in the rural areas of southern and central Mexico. Now that the demographics of Indigenous peoples in Latin America are clear, it is now possible to relate Indigenous people with rural poverty. According to studies, there are significant differences in poverty rates between the Indigenous peoples who predominately live in rural areas and the non-Indigenous individuals in Latin America. The chart pictured below illustrates the differences in the countries in which a large population of Indigenous individuals exist.


% of population living in poverty
% of population living in extreme poverty



% of population living in poverty
% of population living in extreme poverty



% of population living in poverty
% of population living in extreme poverty



% of population living in poverty
% of population living in extreme poverty



% of population living in poverty
% of population living in extreme poverty



(pdba.georgetown.edu, 2006)

It is evident that a large gap exists among the Indigenous peoples and the non-Indigenous living in poverty. By examining the gaps in poverty between the two groups, it is possible to deduce that the Indigenous individuals living mainly in rural areas are at a disadvantage because they reside in such an environment, whereas those who do not typically live in rural areas are better off (worldbank.org, 2010). The Indigenous peoples in Latin America make up the majority of the population in rural lands. A New World Bank study suggests that although Indigenous peoples make up less than 10 percent of Latin America’s population, they are still the most disadvantaged as they suffer from increased poverty, less education, disease (lack of health care), and discrimination compared to all other groups. In order to relieve Indigenous poverty, the World Bank suggests that it is necessary to focus on providing better and more education, through bilingual and bicultural educational programs, improving accountability in the delivery of social services for Indigenous peoples, and promoting equal health care access for Indigenous peoples (worldbank.org, 2010).

The Urban Poor (by Emi)

Although higher urbanization is typically associated with numerous positive developments such as a lower incidence of poverty, more accesses to services, and a generally higher income, this is not the case. Urbanization has actually led to further instances of poverty as Latin America’s rate of urban poverty soared from 27% (41 million people) in 1970 to 29% (127 million) in 2007 (mercopress.com, 2010). Studies have shown that individuals living in extreme poverty in urban areas is approximately 12 percent, one-third that of rural areas in the region (Fay, 2005). The biggest cities in Latin America, which are for the most part typically capital cities, are home to an enormous and growing population of impoverished people (prb.org, 2002). In fact, according to researchers, poor households are expanding twice as fast as well-off households. For example, in El Salvador, the average poor household has at least four people per bedroom, while heads of poor households have low rates of participation in the labor market (67% in the city of Tegucigalpa). Astonishingly, only 34 % of individuals in poor households have an affiliation to the social security system (prb.org, 2002).

Income in Rural and Urban Area (by Jana)

The methods in which people make money in Latin America varies based on whether they live in urban centers or rural areas. Most of the rural poor are farmers and small land owners, but not all people who live in rural areas are farmers, as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2010) states, “Rural households in the developing world are involved in a variety of economic activities, as part of complex livelihood strategies. Agriculture, while remaining important, is not the sole nor, in some cases, necessarily the principal activity of the poor.” The Regional Strategy Paper (2002) also explains that there are a variety of ways people sustain themselves in rural areas; "Poor rural people in the region include indigenous peasant communities, shepherds, small holder farmers, subsistence and landless farmers, rural wage farmers native Amazonian and rainforest indians and artisanal fisherman." (p.5) A large issue for the those who live in forested areas is that of deforestation by large companies that force them off their land. Most of these people are indigenous and their communities live off of the harvesting of fruit and farming small areas. As stated by the Earth Observatory Program run by NASA (2007), "Tropical Forests are home to millions of native (indigenous) people who make their livings through subsistence agriculture, hunting and gathering, or through low-impact harvesting of forest products like rubber or nuts. Deforestation in indigenous territories by logger, colonizers and refugees has sometimes triggered violent conflict." The worst effect is their loss of food source and they are forced to move to the cities to look for food. As well, there are many health concerns that are a direct result of the chemicals and pesticides that are used in the process of deforestation. This video shows how deforestation affects the indigenous people living in South America. <object width="640" height="385"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/fzdnCmLHvNQ&hl=en_US&fs=1&"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/fzdnCmLHvNQ&hl=en_US&fs=1&" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="640" height="385"></embed></object>http://www.youtube.com/<object width="640" height="385"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/fzdnCmLHvNQ&hl=en_US&fs=1&"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/fzdnCmLHvNQ&hl=en_US&fs=1&" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="640" height="385"></embed></object>?v=fzdnCmLHvNQ
Today, the majority of Latin American people live in cities. Although those who live in the cities are more likely to find more suitable income, the number of poor people is still very high. As stated by Marianne Fay and Caterina Ruggeri Laderchi in the Urban Poor In Latin Ameica (2005), "Despite this relatively low poverty incidence, the absolute number of poor people is high: 60 percent of the poor (112 million people) and half the extreme poor (46 million people) in the region live in urban areas." (p.19) The major issue for the urban poor is that of income security. As Philip Musgrove explains in Economic Development and Cultural Change (1980) "An urban household in Latin America may be poor for any of several reasons: because too many of its adult members cannot find work; because
Favelas in Rio de Janeiro
the jobs available to its members pay badly; or because there are too many children or other

members who must necessarily be dependents even if total income is relatively high." (p.249) Urban living is associated with living in a monetized economy: cash must be generated to survive and to create income. It is difficult for the urban poor to generate their own income because they often lack the skills or the social relations to get a job, so they resort to finding work in whatever form they can. these people are put in the category known as the informal sector because they are not controlled or monitored by the government, do not pay taxes and therefore do not "contribute" the a county's economy.

Income can be linked to the assets owned by someone. As Dante Contreras and Osvaldo Larrañaga explain in Potrait of the Poor: an Assets Based Approach, "The principle asset associated with individual income is human capital; that is, the acquired capacities that permit people to generate wealth by applying their labor. Possession of physical assets can also provide income, either through direct exploitation, as in the case of independent workers, or directly from property rights to business assets." (p.113)

Political Action (by Wegahta)

The political action of different Latin American countries regarding poverty in general varies to a great extent. Poverty as a concept is first of all defined differently which leads to different ways of tackling the issue. Urban poverty in Latin America has been the main concern of the governments because there seems to be massive migration of people from rural areas to urban areas. Over the years, migration caused half of Latin American poor population to reside in the cities. People left rural areas in hope of finding a better standard of living and since Latin America was getting highly urbanized, they expected to benefit from it but all it did for them was leave them in poor unbearable conditions of living. Slums were increasing in the cities and the governments were getting worried so since the majority of the rural poor of Latin America are indigenous people, the government paid less attention to rural poverty and more to urban poverty. Government anti-poverty initiatives in Latin America tend to pick up speed around election campaign time and abandon their promises thereafter usually due to corruption and the commitment needed to make the initiatives work. Governments need different ways of political action or policies aimed at rural and urban poverty. The settings and conditions of both urban and rural poverties are immensely diverse which is why governments need to come up with different policies to deal with each problem separately, however such requirement gives opportunity to governments to choose whom to help usually leaving the rural indigenous poor helpless. Below is the discussion of political actions taken to help and deal with urban and rural poverty in Latin America.

Policies Targeted to or Implemented for Urban Poverty ( by Wegahta)

It is reported that three quarters of Latin American population now live in cities or towns which are the urban parts of Latin America (worldbank.org, 2010). Usually urbanization is associated with development and success and in a way; this is true to Latin America since the urban poverty is half of rural poverty and extreme poverty being one third of rural poverty. However, a poor person living in urban areas does not make Latin American countries free of poverty neither does it reduce the level of poverty. As employment is the main income source in urban areas of Latin America, government
slum in an urban city in Brazil
slum in an urban city in Brazil
policies that generate income and wage income are essential (worldbank.org, 2010). Latin American countries have focused on social action or social policies to deal with urban poverty. The strategy of the Brazilian government to reduce poverty is based on greater conditionality of aid at the individual level. Brazil’s zero hunger project aimed for the urban poor went on to be implemented by countries like Nicaragua to ensure that every citizen gets food security. The problem with tackling down urban poverty is that there are extremely high inequality levels. Therefore the governments find it easier to use social policies to provide social services and aid. However, aid is distributed to individuals in monetary forms which lead to dependency on the social system. Latin American urban areas generate a great deal of income but the income stays on the hands of the wealthy and it does not trickle down like it should. Most policies in Brazil have also been directed to the rural poor due to its simplicity in dealing with however whether those policies have been successful or not is another issue.

Policies Targeted to or Implemented for Rural Poverty (by Wegahta)

Rural Poverty in Latin America is directly related to the indigenous populations. Most rural settlers are indigenous peasants who for years worked the land for their survival. However, since the Europeans arrival to Latin America, their world changed and ever since they have been the victims of many hardships that the countries suffer. Their lands have been taken away from them by th
Municipal Market, Florianopolis, Santa Catarina
Municipal Market, Florianopolis, Santa Catarina
e government for the sake of development that never seems to benefit them and they are barely compensated for their losses. Many rural settlers have formed people power movements or some kind of organized unions to try get their voice heard by their governments or the international world but only a handful have been successful.The anti-poverty policy in a small state in Brazil, Santa Catarina, was able to reduce the number of people living in poverty by forty six percent in ten years (findaticles.com, 2010). The Natural Resource Management and Rural Poverty Reduction Project helped empower local communities to better manage their natural resources. This project attracted sewage and water supply companies which led to more employment opportunities and the government spending more money on education. Ninety percent of the people living in rural Santa Catarina were farmers, 85 percent of whom were poorer rural farmers (findarticles.com). This project was successful due to the municipal government’s dedication and struggle to make the policy planned work. Anti-poverty policies have faced implementation difficulties. Lack of coordination between programs, even within the same policy area, has damaged their effectiveness. As a consequence, beneficiary programs, like monetary transfers to poor families, which come across fewer implementation problems, became the assertive type of anti-poverty policies in Brazil in general.

Mexico’s anti-poverty program, Oportunidades has also been one of the most effective policies implemented by the government that has helped i
ts rural citizens significantly. This is a program in which the government pays the poor to keep their families healthy and their children in school. Tina Rosenberg, Contributing Writer for "New York Times Magazine," reported on the Oportunidades program: "I went to a couple of villages that have been in the program the longest. They are getting cash grants that help them live better, and that makes very concrete differences in people’s lives -- Things are very different. The women have a lot more influence and power, they're much more organized, they get together with each other, and they can leave their houses more” (pri.org, 2010). The program has noted a dramatic high school completion increase by eighty five percent. The program helped drop the poverty level in rural Mexico significantly that the program was implemented by thirty other countries. The problem with many Latin American countries is that they try solving their rural problems by often applying radical changes that provide visible and quick results instead of trying to change the systems and environment that support poverty and its growth. New policies with long term commitment targeting the rural poor are urgently needed in Latin America now and in order for these policies to work, the government needs to work hand in hand with the people directly affected by poverty and its challenges. Policies needed in dealing with urban and rural poverty vary in nature although the purpose might be one, to eradicate poverty.

A Closer Look Into Rural and Urban Poverty in Mexico (by Jon)

When taking a closer look at the poverty trends in Mexico it becomes apparent that the rural areas are most drastically affected. While rural sectors are not the only areas affected, they make up 60 percent of Mexico’s poverty and only consist of 25 percent of the total population. The nature of rural poverty can perhaps be isolated with some of it’s unique characteristics. Rural areas have a much larger presence of indigenous groups and the local population depends on very different sources of income as oppose to urban populations. Also, urban cities tend to have advantageous infrastructure which attempts to aid those who fall into poverty. Even if their access is extremely limited they still benefit from the potential to receive local aid. However, strong community ties and abundance of agricultural resources can potentially provide aid to rural poverty groups and provided a safety net for poorer rural areas.
Rural areas are often traditional based societies and often see a relative absence of women in the work force. Unpaid family work forces are more prominent. By way of social movement as well as progress in education Mexico has seen an improvement in rural poverty. Also, reducing the dependence on agriculture and providing other types of paid employment has proved to yield the greatest results. With greater amounts of men and women entering a more urbanized workforce it has provided consistent salaries and a new source of income for rural communities. All of these things along with transfer payments from urban sectors have provided a much needed economic boost to rural sectors classified as “moderately poor”.
Unfortunately, for the rural sectors classified as “extremely poor” these implementations have had little effect on reducing poverty. While rural communities may benefit from diversification of labour many of the far off rural populations will not see results. Due to their mostly indigenous populations, limited access to education and very low population density it makes them more isolated and vulnerable. This gives them less avenues for economic independence. Due to these factors it is unrealistic to predict a successful shift away from economic means outside of agriculture. However, improvement and modernization of agriculture means in latter years has lead to increased productivity. Also, through political intervention small independent farms have been able to achieve and retain a competitive market share of agricultural products. However, in the past decade Mexico has shifted towards the importance of commercial farming and largely by passed those struck by rural poverty.
While some poverty reduction programs are being implemented there is much work that needs to be done to the general infrastructure of rural communities. With such a low population they are an area often missed by government initiatives however they result in the highest concentration of poverty in the country. Promotion and accessibility to education and technical training would provide a diversification to their economies. As most government programs are aimed towards farmers this is the greatest outlet for prosperity by the landless peasants.
Shifting the focus over to urban poverty, these populations have differentiating traits primarily in their day to day lives. Urban populations are typically required to spend much more housing, twice as more as rural populations. Also high costs transportation and education affected urban poverty rates. Their income is almost completely dependent on market labour.
Despite being situated so close to social services urban populations often have little to no access to them. They often live in slums with extremely poor sanitary conditions and have compromised sources of water. This results in the widespread of infectious diseases and respiratory conditions are common amon
A common sight in the urban slums of Mexico
A common sight in the urban slums of Mexico
g children. While the these poor conditions have been acknowledged government initiatives have shown trivial improvement. Urban and rural school enrollment rates has been seen to be equally low. Therefore an improvement in rural sectors may be seen however a reevaluation of urban schooling has been deemed urgently necessary. While accessibility to these services is much higher to urban populations their effectiveness is often in question.
Recent surveys show that not all of the urban poor live in the poor neighborhoods , and not all that live within these neighborhoods are classified as poor. Within close proximity there is a great deal of disparity in regards to economic prosperity and access to social services. These sparsity of poverty makes targeting government aid much more difficult. Social capital has also been closely linked to more prosperous neighborhoods and with employment as well as a higher degree of neighborhood organization. These factors have shown that even in poor house holds social capital plays a part in economic prosperity and stability. While social capital can deter criminal activity areas with more amenities or higher per capita income often produce the highest rates of crime and violence within all of Mexico. The diversity of the poorer areas in urban Mexico leads to the favor-ability of social programs that correlate with a degree self determination. While widespread equality is difficult to attain under the creation of opportunities both economically and for better social conditions is believed to motivate individuals and produce the greatest amount of results.
While both rural and urban sectors faced a great deal of challenges closer examination and awareness has brought about positive change and aided in diminishing poverty in both sectors. While Mexico still faces many problems and a high degree of disparity internal and external consciousness has brought about improvements and will hopefully continue to formulate and reformulate ways of creating equality for its population.

Conclusion (by Emi)

Evidently, Latin America has high rates of both rural and urban poverty. The Indigenous peoples of the region suffer the most in rural areas, where they have a lack of access to education, knowledge of production, adequate work skills, and productive land. The smallholder farmers, the second largest group of individuals in rural areas enduring poverty, are forced to cope with decreasing production on deteriorating lands, among other things. The urban poor, although less poverty stricken than those of the region’s rural inhabitants, also experience poverty due to the lack of employment and/or large families that all lead to the loss of income security. It is often very difficult for the urban poor to generate an income as they often lack the adequate skills needed to obtain employment. However, the government is in the process of implementing a variety of key social policies to deal with both rural and urban poverty. Such policies include collective unions that help to create an awareness of the poverty many Indigenous people in rural areas endure, as well as the Rural Poverty Reduction Project in countries like Brazil that encourage communities to better manage their natural resources. Mexico’s anti-poverty program also demonstrates an effective plan to ease the poverty in rural communities. With the implementation of these social policies, Latin America hopes to replace its rural and urban poverty with equality and a better standard of life.


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