The Politics of Urban Poverty: Participation and Welfare
Ortega Nieto, Daniel
Howard, Marc M
The rapid process of urbanization currently swelling the poor urban neighborhoods of developing countries is changing local and national political landscapes. As the population of urban poor continues to grow--it is expected that by 2030 half of the total urban population will be poor--so are poor peoples' demands for access to public services, as well as the type and intensity of their engagements with political actors. The dissertation focuses on the different types of interactions between the urban poor and politicians and specifically tackles the following questions: What explains the variation in political participation among the urban poor? What drives the urban poor to become active in politics? What types of political activity are these citizens engaging in? The dissertation uses a mixed-methods strategy that makes use of a case study of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and survey data, including an original dataset that includes interviews with over 400 favela dwellers. It finds that in Brazil, there is a "favela effect" in political participation: favela dwellers are more likely to become politically engaged in a number of activities--voting, working for a politician, participating in neighborhood meetings--than people living in more affluent neighborhoods. In addition, the dissertation demonstrates that there are multiple pathways to political participation and that four factors are key in explaining the levels of political engagement: social networks, religious groups, government transfer schemes, and NGO programs. The dissertation contributes to the literature on political participation and democracy, and helps move the debate on political engagement of the urban poor beyond arguments that, on the one hand, portray them as uninterested or unable to engage in political activities and, on the other hand, describe them as the inevitable victims of clientelism and political bosses.
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