Centre for Development Studies

Urban inequality and youth wellbeing in Latin America's informal settlements

October 2015 - September 2018

Principle Investigator: Dr Séverine Deneulin

Funding Body:  British Academy

Research Team: Dr Theodorus Papadopoulos, Dr Rana Jawad, Dr Ana Dinerstein, Prof Sarah White (University of Bath), Ann Mitchell, Ana Lourdes Suarez, Eduardo Lepore (Catholic University of Argentina) Dr Diego Sanchez (University of Oxford), Luis Fuente (Catholic University of Chile

Partners: Catholic University of Argentina; Latin American Centre, University of Oxford; Catholic University of Chile

Overview of the Project

The proliferation of informal settlements, rising inequality and territorial concentration of poverty are problems shared by mega-cities throughout the developing world, but the Latin American city has been particularly marked by this evolution. The population in informal settlements is largely young and the urban fragmentation and maldistribution of resources and opportunities has been accompanied by rising levels of violence.

The aims of the project are:

  1. to create a research network to investigate urban inequality in Latin America as it affects the wellbeing of young people and their opportunities to live flourishing human lives
  2. to consolidate post-graduate curricula on policy and wellbeing research as it relates to urban exclusion and inequality
  3. to inform public policy. It builds on the expertise of the University of Bath in research on wellbeing and social policy, and of the Catholic University of Argentina in empirical research in the informal settlements of Buenos Aires.

The project aims to broaden the existing body of knowledge on living conditions and wellbeing opportunities of youths in informal settlements, and the socio-economic and political processes that underpin them, so as to inform policies to reverse the urban fragementation trend. The interest in this demographic group is motivated by: their markedly inferior educational and employment outcomes in relation to the rest of the city; the expanding problem of drugs; and the generalised perception in society of youths as perpetrators of violence. According to data published by the Interdisciplinary Programme on Human Development and Social Inclusion, only one in four youths aged 18 to 24 living in the slums of Buenos Aires has completed secondary school compared with three in four youths in the rest of the city. More than a quarter of all youths neither work nor go to school. The segregation of the city between the slums and the rest risks generating an inter-generational cycle of exclusion increasingly expressed through the consolidation of sub-marginal cultures and an increase in violence.

The project will adopt a theoretical perspective centred on multi-dimensional wellbeing, affiliation and agency, drawn mainly from Amartya Sen’s capability approach. Its methodological design will combine qualitative and quantitative research methods. Funding from other sources will ensure the collection of primary data through in-depth interviews and quantitative surveys. The project will also seek to identify  policies and interventions which are most effective at expanding the wellbeing opportunities of marginalised urban youth.

The partnership project will include the following types of collaboration: research workshops, doctoral training courses, post-graduate specialised courses on wellbeing analysis in urban marginal contexts, joint publications, policy briefs and research-policy interface seminars.

Intended outputs/impacts

  • Working papers available on both institutions’ websites.
  • Articles in peer-reviewed academic journals in English and Spanish.
  • Policy briefs available on both institutions’ websites and disseminated in international policy networks.
  • Short articles in Latin American and international media.
  • Doctoral seminars on inequality, wellbeing and social policy in Latin America.
  • Post-graduate training on research methods for social research in informal settlements.
  • Post-graduate course on wellbeing research and policy in urban informal contexts.
  • Research results and policy case studies will be used in the post-graduate teaching curriculum of participating institutions.
  • Policy reports for policy-making bodies in Latin American cities.
  • The post-graduate teaching material created during the partnership will form the basis of the curriculum of a specialised course on ‘Human Development Policies in Informal Urban Settlements’ at the Catholic University of Argentina, to be launched at the end of the partnership project.

For more information about this project please contact:

Name: Dr Séverine Deneulin
Title: Senior Lecturer
Department: Dept of Social and Policy Sciences
Location: 3 East 4.18
E-mail: s.deneulin@bath.ac.uk
Phone: work+44 (0) 1225 386805