Seed Funding Grows into a New Grant for Research Team Studying Slums


More than a billion people live in slums worldwide, but major policy initiatives have mostly ignored them. With that number of residents on the rise, one Bass Connections team has spent the last two years exploring why slums are rapidly expanding around the developing world and what this could mean for both political and social networks.

The project, led by Robert O. Keohane Professor of Political Science Erik Wibbels and Edgar T. Thompson Professor of Public Policy Anirudh Krishna, explored the makeup of slums in Bangalore, India, in an effort to understand the slums and the people who must call them home. Witnessing a surprising diversity in terms of physical features, history and legal status, the team developed a methodology for identifying slums and slum types in an effort to organize their insights.

In summer 2015, team members traveled to Bangalore and conducted thousands of surveys of residents in an attempt to identify the formal and informal community leaders. Their goal was to analyze the relationship between local community leadership and government services provided to the residents. Using the survey data as well as field observations and satellite images, the team categorized a typology of slums and the factors that led to their development and perpetuation.

Recently, Wibbels and Krishna were awarded a grant from the Omidyar Network to continue their work studying the slums of Bangalore. The Network, which invests in entrepreneurs who share their commitment to advancing social good, are building on the initial seed funding from Bass Connections.

With this grant, the project will be able to continue their work with renewed energy. Their efforts will include:

  • Using geospatial imagery to identify location of settlements, classify them across different categories, understand their evolution and key characteristics like population and infrastructure
  • Exploring the different types of slums and how do their profiles differ based on various factors like land ownership/ household income/ education levels/ housing quality
  • Discovering whether formal recognition and individual property titles make a difference to the residents’ socioeconomic conditions and to their prospects for upward mobility, and if so, how
  • Identifying the characteristics of property markets within slum settlements, including factors like how people determine price, how they finance it, rental contracts and whether any of this is formally registered in government offices.

With slums so overlooked, Wibbels, Krishna and their team are conducting important work exploring the ways these settlements function and what social and political implications they have. The new funding from Omidyar Network ensures that this important research that started with Bass Connections seed funding can grow and continue to produce valuable insights with the potential to help communities in need.

Originally posted on the Duke Social Science Research Institute website.