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I was led into the study of urban poverty after finding how people in rural areas most often exited poverty by earning a wage after moving to a city. How does moving to a city affect a low-income individual’s economic prospects? How do these prospects look for the next generation?

I located this investigation in slums of different cities. Rather than being a conveyor belt to riches, we found, the slum is the end of the journey for many. Large numbers of families have lived in slums for multiple generations. Even after the passage of generations and the spread of education, the journey from rural to urban has tended to produce very limited upward mobility.The granddaughters of housemaids have become shop assistants and data-entry operators, for instance.

Slums are not all of a kind but rather span a range of differences in terms both of levels of infrastructure and services and degrees of de-jure legal protection. Rather being either fully formal or fully informal, homes in slums are different distances away from being fully titled. And yet, all types of home sales, even those of the flimsiest and most un-titled homes, are routinely transacted by brokers and lawyers following well-known procedures.