Zero Hunger

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| Editors: Walter Leal Filho, Anabela Marisa Azul, Luciana Brandli, Pinar Gökcin Özuyar, Tony Wall

Disadvantaged Neighborhoods: Causes, Dimensions, and Impacts

  • Shahied F. ChouhanEmail author
  • Chinmayi Sarma
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-69626-3_99-1

Disadvantaged Neighborhoods: An Understanding

Relative inability of a region to access basic services for health, nutrition, education, and employment leading to ghettoization emanating from inequality of political participation, economic prowess, geographical isolation, or discrimination vis-à-vis other regions categorizes them as disadvantaged neighborhoods (Staab and Razavi 2015). In a narrow sense, slum clusters or refugee colonies have come to be identified with the term because of heavy influence of Elizabethan Poor Law and colonialism worldwide and also by global rife created by neoliberalism. The idea of disadvantaged neighborhoods needs to be imagined beyond its territorial limits of exploring urban areas by decentralizing the focus on rural and tribal regions using labor-intensive farming practices, having high incidence of feminization of poverty, and suffering from lack of welfare benefits for marginalized: old, widow, or disabled. Understanding the rural-urban linkage is the key to solve the puzzle of overcrowding in poor pockets of urban sprawls because neighborhoods do not become disadvantaged by virtue of occupying a particular space but they carry the baggage of disadvantage from home with their identity. If cities are to become inclusive spaces for poor, the historical linkages and socioeconomic factors of poverty must be deconstructed and forward-backward linkages explored. Also, there is a wide gulf in disadvantaged neighborhoods of developed and developing countries which needs to be recognized to realize the sustainable development goals. Thus, disadvantaged neighborhoods need a holistic explanation covering intersectionality of spaces rather than reeling under rhetorical urban bias.

Another related term used by sociologists to understand such neighborhoods is concentrated disadvantage which denotes a locale with low socioeconomic status. The concentration of disadvantage in these areas is determined by the percentage of individuals below poverty line, individuals seeking public assistance, number of female-headed households, high rate of unemployment, and greater density of children out of schools. The presence of these indicators cumulatively affects development creating disparity in the population of a nation wherein some become second-class citizens not because of entitlement of their rights but limitations to exercise them (Balcerowicz and Rzonics 2015). For instance, the seventh sustainable development goal espouses for universal access of affordable and clean energy to counter climate change and remain resilient in face of disasters. With the commitment, intergovernmental treaties and agreements have been signed to promote renewable energy in institutions, industry, and transport. Decentralization of sustainable energy forms, innovative business models and private models are sought, but one needs to ask whether such models are public enough to cater to the need of the poorest in a nation, because it is usually the asset-less who fail to afford energy on regular basis.

Access of energy services determines human development irrespective of the economy type be it agrarian or industrial. Among the 6 billion people in underdeveloped nations who make up 83% of the humanity, energy poverty looms large, and even among them, it is usually the women and children who are forced to spend up to 20 h a week to gather biomass and drinking water. “According the World Health Organization (WHO), a woman dies every minute from complications related to pregnancy or child birth, often due to lack of electricity and inadequate lighting. Women are the bulk of the 3 billion humans that still use traditional biomass as their main source of energy… . . .having an open biomass fire is equivalent to burning 400 cigarettes an hour. WHO reports that exposure to indoor air pollution is responsible for over 4 million deaths a year, easily making it the most critical environmental killer… . .” (Clemente 2015).

The disparity in distribution and use of conventional sources of energy is tried to be corrected by incorporating renewable energy sources, but there are financial hurdles because service delivery on this front requires capital-intensive investment. Privatization of distribution is done to overcome government budgetary constraints and widen the consumer base which is not free from pricing for profit, thereby deterring free and universal access of clean energy to disadvantaged neighborhoods. Pro-poor public-private partnership (PPP) involves substantial business risk so community involvement and civil society partnership to ensure universal access of fuel is a crucial social engineering step forward. Involving government, private companies, microfinance institutions, nongovernmental organization, and people is a step to correct energy disparity in disadvantage neighborhoods whether urban or rural.

Mushrooming of disadvantaged neighborhoods is determined by prevalent sociopolitical conditions in a nation. Disadvantage is a relative concept because what are basic needs for developed counties may be luxury for ghettos in developing nations. For instance, disadvantage in India is endemic or intergenerational wherein some people are predetermined to lower educational attainment and underemployment, thus restraining them to poor localities with skewed basic services. Lower achievement in education and employment has a strong correlation with undernutrition as evident in the majority of children in such neighborhoods. India houses two-fifth of Asia’s 51.5 crore undernourished despite legal sanction ensuring food security occupying 100th position. The low rank was attributed to child undernourishment by the government, which leads us to a fundamental question of whether disadvantaged children of today will make up for a health workforce tomorrow.

Survival and well-beings are two ends of a continuum of growth and development of a community. Disasdvantaged neighbourhoods often situated on the periphery of the advantaged neighbourhoods, face the scourge of adverse climate change such as desertification, water stress, and ecosystem degradation. These communities on margins of the society and economy are thus pushed on the brink of extinction because development itself is lopsided, benefitting few remarkably rich, leaving behind a great mass in extremely poor. Discourses on disadvantaged neighborhoods seek an equitable and sustainable society, i.e., “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs” (Brundtland 1987). In these intergenerational schemata, to protect our community commons, the role of youth is considered substantial to combat climate change and its impact. The Asia-Pacific countries are vulnerable to extreme weather events with massive human and economic cost, and the youth are drivers to increase social and environmental cost of transformation of our societies and catalyst in building low-carbon-consuming region with the aim of a resilient future. Mobilizing the youth across neighborhoods whether poor or gated is the key to an egalitarian world order for attaining sustainable development goals.

Dimensions of Disadvantaged Neighborhoods

Inequality in Distribution of Space

The Indian Ocean Tsunami revealed newer layers of stratification wherein greater number of victims affected by the undersea earthquake were found to be from lower class or caste living on margins of the terrain. Coastal communities living on the periphery of the land who were traditionally engaged in fishing made up for the greatest percentage of causalities to the disaster. The question of living space and sphere of livelihood is central to understanding disadvantaged neighborhoods. Contested space and vulnerability are entwined; therefore, understanding the extent of this relation will help in securing the sustainable development goals. Inequality in victimhood to climate risk and hydrological hazards finds expression in Goal 13 which envisages for climate action. It recognizes regional disparity in exposure to risks of climate related disasters in developing countries and therefore envisages to integrate disaster risk measures into national strategy. Historically the global north has been greater emitter of carbon, but the impact of its footprints is felt by the global south because of the socioeconomic vulnerability to mitigate losses and population pressure. The global south has not shared the fruits of growth and development at par with the global north, yet the south is liable for greater quantum of risk, which emerges as fallouts of growth. This proposes that disadvantage and development are inversely proportional to one another whereby the underdeveloped face greater burden of disadvantage to ensure a quality life for self and society. Contextualizing these in case of neighborhoods reveals that the global south has a greater density of ghettos and that too with near unlivable conditions.

Inequality of income and participation is a factor triggering residential segregation. Distribution of settlement patterns is intertwined with sociobiological factors of caste and race which play out historically. Segregation of living space does not merely operate at the community level but finds expression through policies of the state. With the expansion of the neoliberal economy, the role of housing policies of the state is influenced by pressure groups and business lobbies. Increased privatization and de-regularization have proliferated real estate escalating the growth of gated communities and township residencies. A consequent mushrooming of slum clusters to cater to food, security, and domestic chores of these establishments is its inevitable corollary. Thus, gated communities resemble the core around which the slum clusters emerge as periphery. Though the core and the periphery are symbiotically conjoined, yet in terms of welfare benefits and access of resources, core is preferred and privileged. The periphery which supports the core with essential services is low-income households that face uncertainty of life and expectations which severely impacts children. Higher rates of dropouts, delinquency, and drug abuse are some of the common problems highlighted by civil society organization. The UNDP Report about the SDG of Quality Education states that children from poorest households are four times more likely to be out of school than those of richest households (UNDP 2018). The lack of quality education and gainful employment among the youth from such locale strengthens the poverty trap preventing their escape from the disadvantaged neighborhoods. Economic inequality between the core and periphery also gives rise to biases wherein poor communities are blamed for social ills like prostitution, crime, and drug peddling. Poverty and mental corruption are thrush upon such neighborhoods by the elites, opening the floodgates for stigma, baggage of which is often carried around by the poor.

The core and periphery model of symbiosis gives rise to newer dynamics and conceptual categories. “… . .the poor benefit from the presence of the rich: the higher willingness to pay for the service of the rich leads the service provider to enter into the neighbourhood, allowing the poor who live sufficiently close by to access the services. This is the positive ‘provision effect’. On the other hand, the higher the income or larger the proportion of rich, the higher is the equilibrium price, hurting the poor. This is the negative ‘price effect’. In the extreme, if income or proportion of the rich is high enough, the service providers completely abandons the poor and cater to the rich. This is the negative ‘exclusion effect’” (Gulati and Ray 2016).

Thus, the advantaged anddisadvantaged neighborhoods exist in relation to one another, and such relation is not unilateral but multilayered with regional variations. Empowerment of the disadvantaged neighborhoods and their inclusion in the market depends a great deal on governmental intervention. While in Norway and Sweden an inclusive model for redistribution of income and opportunity is provided, in developing nations a filtration model for countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh is followed.

The 11th Sustainable Development Goal Sustainable Cities and Communities proposes to build sustainable cities and communities which requires overtly concentrated urban spaces to be made humane. These spaces require to be registered in the mental map of the policy makers and town planners so that adequate infrastructure facility and basic services are made available to them. Developmental planning requires to take into account rural-urban linkages, and democracy to become inclusive requires members of these communities to overcome stereotypes of being second-class citizens and become equal members of the society.

Increasing Ghettos and the Role of Migration

Migration is a common yet intriguing and complex phenomenon in the process of development of societies and economies. It is not merely a geographic phenomenon indicating shift in demographic or settlement pattern but has far-reaching impact upon lives and resources. Often from underdeveloped pockets or conflict zones, people migrate to stable regions for better employment and livelihood opportunity. However, the migrants face dearth of opportunity in living condition and access of basic services which affects their quality of life. The migrating population usually come from the lower strata, class, or caste in case of the Indian subcontinent or have a history of racial discrimination. Their entry in urban centers is marked by inequality in availing education, health and sanitation, decent work environment, or energy which compound their existing social disabilities. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals seek to create an inclusive world by making all basic services accessible to world, but when it comes to migrating population who reside in urban ghettos or slum clusters, a clear lack of implementation of these goals is visible. Often governments in partnership with civil society organizations decentralize these goals for implementation, but a clear gap is seen in equitable distribution of welfare benefits among these floating population. There are various factors which challenge service delivery for the migrants such as the lack of documentary evidence to prove identity and polarization between the settled and migrants. The migrants are called floating population because they contribute to the unorganized sector or service sector through their labor but have no ownership over factors of production. Their engagement with employers is casual or in piece rate terms without any claims to social security. Dharavi is Asia’s largest slum cluster and a classic example of disadvantaged neighborhood where the migrating population not only live but also work. The living space coincides with workspace making Dharavi also the largest market for spare motor part in the continent.

As empirical evidence suggests, residents of gated community who often call themselves original inhabitants of the city garner a sense of rancor against the migrants because they are seen as running a parallel economy of remittance who pilferage earnings of the cities to undeveloped rural hinterlands. Apathy toward ownership of establishment and resources by migrants is evident, thereby restricting them to the neighborhoods alone. Besides the migrants are not the vote banks in urban centers and given the complexity in democracy, leaders tend to prefer the opinion of the settled groups who are invariably the majority. Bias of the majority toward city’s poor is replicated in government policies and implementation strategies, thus pushing them to fend upon leftover of the cities.

While chaos, scarcity, and deluge at home provoke men to move to industrial centers to earn a living, in the cities too, a similar insecurity prevails. Often these unskilled men occupying lowest rung in the occupational hierarchy in urban work sphere are paid lower than regular workers without access to social security benefits reducing them to casual laborers as they remain outsider to the city’s politics or participation throughout. The inequality of participation makes these migrants a disadvantaged community living in cities, in squalor without voice and entitlements.

Refugees, Hunger, and Mobile Ghettos

The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World Report of 2018 by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) projects that since 2015 global hunger has risen affecting 11% of the global population in 2017. The figure of 82.1 crore people living with hunger raises questions about political commitment to make sustainable development of zero hunger a reality. “The FAO’s Crop Prospects and Food Situation Report for March 2018 had estimated that global cereal production in 2017 to be 1.2% higher than in 2016, driven by South America (with 25.4% increase over 2016 cereal output) and Africa (a 10.8% increase from 2016) in the main. Yet, ironically 29 out of the 37 countries identified by FAO to be in need to external food assistance due to conflict/displacement/weather shocks, are in Africa. While the (lack of) internal; governance drives localized food insecurity, the widespread lack of access galvanizes attention towards the modalities of international assistance to mitigate starvation” (Editorial 2018).

Data on hunger breaks its teleological linkage with food production, access of good grains, and its distribution and consumption opening up domains of enquiry for continuation of hunger emanating from environmental catastrophes and political strives. Food aid often makes way into war zones or disaster areas as an emergency provision to fulfill the needs of displaced victims, but such immediate assistance is short-lived and fails to address the question of chronic hunger. Provision of food aid is a reactionary strategy motivated by charity or extending support to distressed nation during crisis, but such phased distribution of relief aid does not ensure food security. Survivors of war, external aggression, internally displaced persons and ecological refugees can be categorically identified as disadvantaged communities owing to unsustainable access of food and nutrition which hinders an active and healthy life besides stunting the growth of future generations.

Prevalence of hunger among displaced communities pushes them to move to politically stable centers or nations as refugees or immigrants, but given their limited power to bargain, they are restricted to unsafe spaces like refugee camps or resettlement colonies. Conflict and contestation of spaces is a dilemma which these communities must endure for survival. Lack of ownership or rights over living space doubly burdens these staving communities to become nomads, in search of food and shelter forcing them to become mobile ghettos bundled with disadvantage. The refugees are trapped in exile sharing limited basic lodging and facing overcrowding not merely to escape persecution from war but also environmental crisis. The drought between 2006 and 2010 was the worst in modern history that forced thousands of farming families in the rural province of Dara to penury and mass migration.

365体育网站Nomadic communities such as Bedouins of Sahara or Wichita of Southern Plains are traditionally accustomed to a mobile life in quest for food, shelter, and trade, but when settled communities are displaced from their ancestral habitat and occupation into the urban wilderness, they fail to adapt to its socioeconomic standards of prosperity and face several socio-emotional barriers. Today millions of Syrian refugees have fled bombs and bullets which have devastated their homes and crossed borders to reach Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan.

Even before the waves of civil war, the Syrian society was highly repressive with conspicuous inequality in wealth and privilege, but a review of demographic profile of the refugees shows that plebeians lower in class hierarchy make up majority of the displaced. The refugees rank fairly in social capital, but their economic capital is low, and the most possible cause is the destruction of ancestral assets at home. “According to recent assessment, nearly 67% Syrian refugees live below the poverty line in many shelter with insufficient WASH facilities and inadequate protection against poor weather. In addition, it is estimated that over 350,000 Syrian children remain out of school and face the challenge such as lack of awareness about available services, language barrier, socio-economic obstacles and dropout at the secondary school level” (Reliefweb 2017).

Causes and Concerns of Disadvantaged Neighborhoods

The beginning of disadvantaged neighborhoods can be historically linked with the era of industrial revolution which brought forth the industrial class of haves and have-nots. As per the classical Marxian definition, the have-nots were underpaid workers in exploitative factories also alienated from the product of their own labor and true human nature. These have-nots are proposed to be the original settlers of these disadvantaged neighborhoods in industrial town. Economic growth and urbanization triggered mass movement of labour to urban areas who were erstwhile artisans, unskilled cultivators and marginalized farmers in rural area, scarcity, impoverishment, and susceptibility to natural catastrophes acted as push factors leading to migration. Constant streams of migration meant inflation of people in an already restricted space leading to its overcrowding, compromising health and hygiene and rights and entitlements. Also, surplus workers gave the advantage of choice to employers which declined security of tenure and increased casual work. Impoverishment and insecurity made these centers breeding grounds for disease and delinquency. Depreciation of living conditions in these neighborhoods brought in new barriers of disadvantage separating the advantaged and disadvantaged neighborhoods. Despite being part of the similar historical epoch, the narratives of the two neighborhoods are different. While mainstream history records the role of the haves, the experiences of disadvantaged neighborhoods are lost only partially appearing as subaltern texts of violence, marginalization, and squalor. Charles Dickens in his novels had captured the sordid tales of disadvantaged neighborhoods365体育网站, and even today their plight remains similar though the natures of disadvantage vary.

The mass exodus of man to cities though true across ages is today increasing at a massive rate. It is projected that two-thirds of humanity will reside in urban settings by 2030 and by 2050, roughly 6.4 billion people will live in cities. Cities are the drivers of growth generating economic capital and pulling human resources toward it. But the restricted city space is encountering explosion of human confluence which means more cramped settlements where the powerless are often pushed into. Shanties, ghettos, slums, and favelas are the fragile zones of cities with unprecedented human conglomeration which also makes up for majority of the informal backbone of urban economy. Today there are about one billion people living in slums which are supposed to double in the next three decades. Population in cities is growing in geometric progression, but the cityscape and its infrastructure are increasing in arithmetic progression. This disjuncture when literally put would mean that cities are sitting on a time bomb and it is the poor neighborhood365体育网站 which will bear this explosion. Inequality in distribution of wealth in urban spaces leaves the poor with a disproportionate burden. It is not possible to fully resolve the situation but possible to work on practical strategies to reduce the impact. Town planners must collaborate with civil society organizations to deliberate upon afforable housing, basic services, public transport, disaster resilient infrastructure and accesible healthcare for disadvantaged communities, who experience perpetual deprivation despite being mass contributers to the economy.

Great cities have come on banks of great rivers like Thames, Nile, and Ganga, but these rivers have been periodically known to cause massive flooding inundating homes and hearths of those on margins. As mentioned earlier, the poor of a city usually occupy fringes, and majority of them live by the banks of the river, thereby carrying greater risk due to their existing social vulnerability. While floodplain zoning is done by the government and such areas are prohibited from human settlement, yet it is difficult to evacuate the occupants because of lack of alternate space for accommodation. Human settlement in urban spaces and their proneness to disasters is thus a class determinant. Disadvantaged neighborhoods are restricted in their choice of settlement, and being forced to a risky terrain means greater vulnerability to disasters which further dispossess them. Risk associated with living in floodplain faced by disadvantaged neighborhoods is true for both developed and developing countries. Besides with disasters taking an anthropomorphic turn, the susceptibility of the poorer settlement around riverbanks has grown. Flooding of Yamuna in Delhi and submerged quarters of the poor is visual which has gone viral worldwide, but similar is true for disadvantaged neighborhoods of Houston with high concentration of ethnic, racial minority, and noncitizens on lower elevation with a greater risk of flooding in comparison to majority of wealthy neighborhoods on high grounds (Lu 2017). With increased industrialization, rivers are treated as dumping ground of sewage, effluents, and toxics. Thus, floodplain communities face a greater risk of toxic contamination owing to their direct dependence on the river for survival instead of basic services by public bodies (ENVIS 2016). So, environmental inequality studies have rightly agreed that poor and minority neighborhoods are more exposed to environmental hazards in form of industrial pollution or waste (Crowder and Downey 2010).

Disadvantaged Neighborhoods and Impacts on Society

Living in disadvantaged neighborhoods entails a unique subjective reality. Social Darwinists have called crime an inevitable part of social existence and explained its functional role. Given this, the residents of a community on fringes may see crime as a survival tactic but mainstream as a malicious act of social destruction. Thus, living space is a vantage point which determines livelihood, culture, longing, and communication besides shaping perception about self and others. The example in the previous section states that social minorities live in spatially vulnerable terrains due to lack of limited choice but majority community may perceive them as violator of building code of the city leading to menace. Disadvantaged neighborhoods365体育网站 are seen as bastions of social evil, and this section seeks to contemplate on such contestations.

Historically the oldest thriving trade in the world is prostitution. Though sex work is considered as a morally corrupt profession, the customer base has remained stable across societies. Today with the expansion of the virtual platform, the base of this service industry is increasing, yet the older barriers of ghettoization, compromised public health, poverty, trafficking, and abuse remain intact. Be it the luxurious Amsterdam where prostitution is legalized or Sonagachi, the largest red-light district of Asia located in India’s Bengal, generations of sex workers are fighting for entitlement to address the lack of social security, quality life, and justice. Stigma associated with the profession leads to alienation of such neighborhoods. Narratives of abuse report the stepmotherly attitude of the state which mixes sex work with criminality and harassment by police. Sex workers mostly female face social, cultural, and economic deprivation in such neighborhoods as they have limited access to mainstream society. Sex work is an unorganized service industry and financially vulnerable. “The clandestine nature of sex work and stigma surrounding it restricts access to and utilization of financial services by female sex workers, and makes it more difficult for policymakers to design appropriate programmes for their empowerment” (Chakrabarty and Sharma 2018). The exclusion of such neighborhoods from the mainstream society, organized economy, and collective consciousness creates a domino effect of disadvantage, the impact of which is usually borne by children of sex workers. The wrath of raging HIV/AIDS epidemic in these neighborhoods is disproportionately borne by children apart from other domains of marginalization such as low enrollment in schools, introduction to sex work at an early age, separation from parents, abuse, and psychological issues. “Red-light area” is a colonial term used to demarcate these areas, but in reality, it is stigma above any connotation which segregates such neighborhoods from rest. Unfortunately, the burden of such stigma is passed down across generations leaving chains of disadvantage attached to the locale.

In the Indian subcontinent manual, scavenging is a yet another occupation which gets passed on from father to son through the caste system that again dictates choice of space. Dalit neighborhoods remain insulated from change and impervious to development even in the twenty-first century as untouchability is practiced despite legal sanctions. Segregating human based on birth is a practice which could not even be altered by colonialism rather a divide and rule policy institutionalized by British reinforcing this system through the introduction of “communal electorates.” It is interesting how living spaces, social disadvantage, and politics became enmeshed. During the world wars, caste-based recruitments were done, and manual scavengers were employed to keep cantonment area free from dirt, which again created ghettos of segregated quarters for lower-caste employees, thereby regularizing caste-based disadvantaged neighborhoods365体育网站 as a government policy.

In developing countries, the practice still continues whereby people from lowest rung of the society are employed to maintain the ambience of wealthier neighborhoods. Groups of sweepers, scavengers, and rag pickers make their livelihood by maintaining elite gated communities as sacrosanct spaces, but they themselves live in cramped makeshift arrangements. While the municipality employs them through private contractors to maintain the cleanliness and beauty of the city, they are denied of basic services such as clean drinking water or toilet facility. Body pollution is practiced against these communities, and their living quarters are often outside the sight of the affluent. Two terms often used as binary to segregate the advantaged and disadvantaged spaces in India are Kothi and Basti, respectively, signifying apparent disjuncture of power, prestige, and privilege. Thus, like prostitution, stigma segregates sweeper’s ghettos, so spaces are not merely365体育网站 socio-geographical manifestation but psychological carvings. While for first it is shame and moral corruption, in case of the latter, it is dirt and touch. But what binds the two are alcoholism and abuse.

Today community work is an organized profession combining activism and funding for upliftment of disadvantaged neighborhood. Alcoholism and drug abuse are targeted as maladies of such communities. Indeed, domestic violence, dropout, and delinquency share positive correlation with alcoholism, but is it that advantaged neighborhoods who do not suffer from such ills? There are ample cases when poor living on footpaths are trampled under wheels of intoxicated rich. So, cities as stagnant spaces require re-imagination. To make our definition of disadvantaged neighborhoods365体育网站 inclusive, homeless, street dwellers, and construction workers must be understood as fluid locales carrying disproportionate bundles also taking into account the rural pockets of distress.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social WorkUniversity of DelhiDelhiIndia
  2. 2.Centre for North East Studies and Policy ResearchJamia Millia IslamiaDelhiIndia

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  • Nerise Johnson

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