- While urban poverty is more concentrated, more visible, and hence seemingly more desperate than the rural variety, migration into cities appears to reduce poverty in poor countries. ... [S]ince the beginning of the industrial age ... no country has grown rich before its people first shifted to cities. ...
Poor countries often try to stop slum growth, evicting migrants and denying water and sanitation to new slum developments. [This harms] their citizens and economies. What's more, their efforts usually fail, worsening slum conditions without stopping slum growth.
[G]overnments would do better if they accepted the inevitability of new city dwellers and tried to work with them: Plan ahead, provide the basics -- access to water, electricity and roads -- then get out of the way. Entrepreneurial hustle fills the slums; let the same drive that brings millions to the city improve it from the bottom up.
Countries serious about slowing the growth of their cities without trapping their citizens in poverty might try a method more effective than demolishing shantytowns. Over half of city growth now comes from natural increase -- births less deaths -- not from migration. The best antidote to the ills of urban crowding, over the long term, might be a new emphasis on education, contraception and women's rights.
You might also want to read Not Kuruvamma, really.