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Is formalizing slums in India is so tough? An explanation from the perspective of individualism

Authors: Ziming Li*, University of Florida
Topics: Behavioral Geography, Urban and Regional Planning, Asia
Keywords: Informality, institutional defects, affordability, privatization
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2020
Start / End Time: 11:50 AM / 1:05 PM
Room: Virtual Track 2
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The effect of social psychology at the grassroots in urban space re-allocation is a new perspective to understand slum upgrading in India. We intend to find whether individualism could explain why government-initiated slum upgrading programs in India confronted challenges from the grassroots. We identify a unique pattern of slum dwellers’ housing preferences and behaviors in mitigating the exclusive process and unsatisfactory outcomes of slum upgrading. We describe this pattern as “individualism.” It consists of slum dwellers’ preferences for in-situ upgrading projects over displacement, self-built over collectively-built construction, single-family house over multi-family apartments, complete land tenure ownership over land renting, and private solutions to basic infrastructure insufficiency over collaboration for applying for formal and communal infrastructure provision. Individualism might partly affect the progress of slum upgrading if it increases negotiation costs between housing agencies and dwellers, but it might also reduce the friction of slum upgrading due to slum dwellers’ collective action. Through utilizing multistage stratified random sampling, we selected 658 slum households from four cities of Bihar—Patna, Muzzafarpur, Gaya, and Bhagalpur. We adopt probit and IV-probit models. It finds that individualism incentivizes individual slum dwellers to choose slum upgrading no matter which type, but its effect is more significant when they face the choice of relocation than in-situ upgrading. It implies that governments should be aware of individualism of slum dwellers for effective slum upgrading. Preferentially selecting the slum with limited collective actions to upgrade rather than negotiating with organized slums as a priority could be a practical strategy.

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