Researching the Urban Dilemma: Urbanization, Poverty and Violence


This baseline study aims to help inform the design and scope of the Safe and Inclusive Cities research initiative. This report:

  • documents what is known about the connections between violence, inequalities, and poverty in urban centres and assesses the strength of the knowledge base
  • describes the state of theory on violence, urbanization, and poverty reduction
  • identifies key evidence gaps that require further investigation
  • maps out key actors (researchers and research organizations) that are producing knowledge on these issues
  • provides an extensive bibliography.

The report is divided into several parts. The opening section briefly reviews the methodology employed in this review. The next section considers some of the ways in which social scientists have conceived urbanization, urban violence and urban poverty and the relationships between them and reviews the state of the debate on key concepts and theories. Section three introduces a framework to consider the differentiated impacts of urban violence on poorer and more marginal populations. Section four focuses on known risks and drivers of urban violence onset and duration. The fifth section considers various forms of resilience and resistance employed by urban residents – and in particularly the poor – to urban violence. The final section issues a typology of interventions to mitigate, contain and reduce urban violence, many of which draw on insights from the theoretical contributions cited in earlier parts of the concept note. The paper also features a series of annexes, including some key research questions, examples of how theoretical approaches have informed practice, a list of interviews, relevant websites, and an extensive list of references to help guide future research into the urban dilemma.


Muggah, R. Researching the Urban Dilemma: Urbanization, Poverty and Violence. IDRC, Ottawa, Canada (2012) x + 106 pp.

Researching the Urban Dilemma: Urbanization, Poverty and Violence

Published 1 January 2012