Informal Housing and Good Citizens in Development

dissertation in progress

What is the role of urban informal housing (slums) in shaping the politics of public goods provision in the developing world? According to the UN, 881 million people, or 33% of global urban population, reside in slums, or urban informal settlements. Housing informality represents an underexplored area of how inequality determines not only material conditions of individuals and families, but also how it affects ordinary citizens, as groups, to socialize as communities, organize to (dis)engage with public policy, and become politically active with direct and indirect consequences, particularly in fast-urbanizing middle-income economies.

Hence, this dissertation examines the housing dimensions of citizen-state relations in contemporary developing cities. It focuses on how inadequate housing conditions shape collective action, public goods provision, and ultimately the subjective perceptions that citizens hold about what it means to participate in politics in the city. I propose that informal housing leads to collective public goods provision by community residents, engendering community-bound social capital while lowering citizen expectation of official public goods in the long run, with outcomes that touch on broad attitudes of trust and beliefs in the government.

The research looks at these hypotheses using an array of observational and quasi-experimental methods. It leverages cross-national public opinion data and time series administrative, spatial, and large survey data from Indonesia.

Ying Gao
Ying Gao
Graduate Research Fellow

PhD candidate in Poli Sci at MIT